CRC, area church celebrate King


On Wednesday, Jan. 16 members of Central Reform Congregation (CRC) and Cote Brilliante Presbyterian Church gathered at the Central West End synagogue to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The service marked the 16th year the two groups have come together for this occasion.

Rabbi Susan Talve described the event as “a great opportunity for different generations to learn and share how the message of Dr. King’s life impacts our lives today and continues to inspire our work of tikkun olam, the healing of the world.”

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She welcomed the 250 attendees by providing commentary on the week’s Torah portion. She noted that it took the Jews 40 years to get to the Promised Land, just as this year marks the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. She cited the diversity of our current major presidential candidates as something not conceivable 40 years ago.

Cote Brilliante’s Reverend William Gillespie spoke about the close relationship the two congregations have developed and the many lessons both congregations have learned through the relationship.

The combined choirs from both religious organizations sang uplifting hymns and spiritual songs, encouraging attendees to participate. Younger members of each congregation were also involved in the ceremony, as they read inspiring quotes from Dr. King.

Rabbi Capers Funnye, the spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Congregation in Chicago served as the keynote speaker. Rabbi Funnye spoke to the enthusiastic crowd about the impact of Dr. King on both Jews and African-Americans.

“Dr. King’s work is unfinished,” he said. “Jews and African-Americans need to work together.”

He encouraged the two communities to sustain an open dialogue about current politics and making positive changes.

“All Americans should partake in what this country has to offer so that Dr. King’s dream becomes reality,” he said. Rabbi Funnye also spoke about the collaboration between Dr. King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a prominent Jewish scholar.

CRC Member Robert Fishbone led a drum performance with the help of audience members. The entire audience, still standing from a rendition of We Shall Overcome, clapped to the music.

“This service is the best,” said Marian Rosen, a 19 year member of CRC. “I met Dr. King in 1963 at Brandeis University so being here is like a time machine flash back to a powerful time.”

Mary Danis-Maclin, a member of Cote Brilliante, also enjoyed the ceremony.

“It’s wonderful that our two groups can come together even though we’re different,” she said. “We have so much in common as people.”

While addressing the crowd, Rabbi Randy Fleisher admitted that the same event held in 1992 was a turning point in his life. After attending the occasion, he decided to become a rabbi. He still enjoys the celebration.

“It’s always great when people come together with a common vision for something position like racial unity,” he said. “There is so much power in progressive faith and so much love and positive energy.”

Following the celebration, all those who attended enjoyed food and the opportunity to mingle at a reception. Next year’s event will be held at Cote Brilliante Presbyterian Church.

The Joint Venture has also worked together on community projects such as Habitat for Humanity, music projects, museum tours, and sponsored speakers. They have marked Dr. King’s birthday in a variety of ways including special student programs and walking behind a joint banner in St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Day parade.

Published Jan. 23, 2008