Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Eyes of a Rabbi

(JSPAN) The day after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, the president of the Memphis Ministers’ Association, Rabbi James A. Wax of Temple Israel, delivered an impassioned sermon, eulogizing King, placing King’s teachings in the arc of Jewish and Christian tradition and, denouncing the shame of white Memphis and America. Here is an excerpt from the sermon.

Photo by Robert Newman.

Martin Luther King helped to bring freedom to the oppressed people yet in this free nation. He fought to break the chains that have oppressed people; he sought to give men dignity; he sought to make this a better world in which to live.

Oh how the cynics sneered when they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize. They said, ‘what did he do to deserve it?’ How little can people be?

Here was a man in the tradition, the grandest traditions of Judaism and Christianity, bringing freedom to people, and we white hypocrites that speak about freedom for all people know full well that not many miles from here negroes could not vote. In this very city, called a place of good abode, because their skin was black, they had to sit in the back of the streetcar. They were not even given the dignity of their names.

Martin Luther King was one the greatest men of this century because he personified, because he personified the greatest teachings in Judaism and in Christianity, and he did it without violence. He sought to appeal to the heart and the conscience of men.