Civil Rights Impact


Jonathan Mark’s article, “Jewish-Black Alliance Hardly A Film Romance” (Oct. 13), quotes Howard Squadron, a chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations: “Our memories of the black-Jewish alliance are simply inaccurate. The alliance was never anywhere nearly as strong as we made it out to be. We overstated our role.”

The article does not address the issue of how the civil rights movement affected Jewish life. In fact, it had a profound impact. I will never forget my view of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as he joined Martin Luther King in Washington for his iconic talk. As he waited in the bus for transport, I was standing nearby outside. He championed the importance of Judaism as a source of tzedakah and tikkun olam. His colleagues at the Jewish Theological Seminary created an expanded concept of the power of spirituality to capture human existence.

As a young lawyer in Washington on the staff of the United States Department of Labor Division of Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation, I had the great honor of being sponsored personally by the Solicitor General of the United States, Thurgood Marshall, for admission to the Supreme Court Bar to practice before the Court.

Both Thurgood Marshall and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel have had a profound influence on my life as one dedicated to tikkun olam. The unity of purpose and values that both men share is the essence of a heritage of justice and compassion.

Forest Hills, Queens