Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jews Join in Mourning for Dr. King; Will Attend March and Funeral Rites

April 8, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Thousands of American Jews participated today in synagogue and interfaith services and other memorials for the martyred Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and planned to join in a memorial march in Memphis tomorrow and to attend funeral services Tuesday in Atlanta.

Expressions of shock and sorrow over the murder of the civil rights leader and of hope that his assassination would spur new efforts in legislation and citizen action to remedy the plight of the Negro downtrodden were contained in numerous messages from Jewish organizations. Many Jewish leaders planned to join the Memphis march and to attend the funeral services.

A number of Jewish meetings held during the weekend added special sessions in Dr. King’s memory. More than 300 leaders of the nation’s 25 major American Jewish organizations attending the opening today of the two-day biennial meeting of the American Jewish Conference for Soviet Jewry here paid tribute to Dr. King’s memory and achievements at the start of the meeting. Rabbi Israel Miller, conference chairman, called Dr. King “a spokesman for the finest values of our nation, and indeed for all humanity.” Dr. King’s historic speech on the sufferings of Soviet Jewry, delivered on a nation-wide hook-up during Hanukah in December, 1966: was re-played at the memorial program.

A resolution voicing “sorrow and shock” and pledging rededication to the goals for which Dr. King died, was adopted unanimously by members of B’nai Zion attending the annual bill of rights conference of the fraternal order here tonight. Norman G. Levine, conference chairman, announced that B’nai Zion would plant a grove of 1,000 trees in the Kennedy Freedom Forest in Jerusalem, bearing Dr. King’s name.


The American Jewish Committee said that several of its officers, led by Bertram H. Gold, executive director, would join the march in Memphis and that its president, Morris B. Abram, would attend the funeral services. William Stern, administrative director of the Workman’s Circle will head a delegation of leaders to the march and funeral and Emanuel Muravchik, executive director of the Jewish Labor Committee, will lead a similar delegation.

Special services were held yesterday in synagogues in memory of Dr. King. Rabbi Martin S. Halpern, president of the Washington Board of Rabbis, and a co-chairman of the Interreligious Committee on Race Relations, participated in religious services in Washington Friday, attended by President Johnson. In Atlanta, a personal message to Mrs. King from President Shazar of Israel was conveyed by Israeli Consul General Zeev Boneh. Mr. Shazar’s message said “the hearts of the people of Israel are with you in mourning the incredibly tragic loss of Martin Luther King, great and noble leader of his own brothers and all seekers for peace and justice.”

Dr. Maurice Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, told the annual meeting of the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues today that Congress should, “without further delay, enact the sorely needed civil rights bill, and enact effective legislation for employment, education. housing and welfare,” He urged that Dr. King’s plan for a “poor people’s March” in Washington this month “should be pursued more vigorously than ever” under moderate Negro leadership and should be supported “by all men of goodwill.” Rabbi Eisendrath urged each Reform member congregation to ask each congregant to send telegrams to his representatives and senators calling for prompt enactment of civil rights and related legislation for the poor and to plan special memorial services for Dr. King.

A memorial service was held in the B’nai B’rith building in Washington, at which two Negro staff members expressed their frustrations and grief but also pleaded for Dr. King’s cause of non-violence. Some 200 colleagues attended the service at which Mrs. Lillian Brown, a clerk, and Clarence Thompson, an assistant supervisor, spoke at the invitation of Rabbi Jay Kaufman, executive vice-president.

Recommended from JTA