The Ava DuVernay film, Selma, is such an excellent film with such fine acting that I felt transported back to the 1960’s while I watched it. The film centers around the Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights in 1965. Although this was an African American movement, many Jewish people were involved in the civil rights struggle. Not only were the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh, but most of us had grandparents and parents who had fled bigotry and oppression. We wanted to help end the same type of hateful acts in America, the Free.
I remember admiring the people who went to the South to march, putting their very lives at risk. My parents would never have let me go and I doubt that I had the courage to do it anyway. But, I do know someone who did have the courage to stand behind Dr. King and other leaders in the March: Rabbi David Teitelbaum. He is the brother and uncle of friends of mine.
Recently President Obama spoke about him in his remarks at the Adas Israel synagogue, on May 22:
“…I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago. A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail.
And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope. But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps”– yarmulkes — as they marched.
And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”
As we remember the struggles of years past, I hope we can remember the benefits of standing strong together for what is right and just. As we acknowledge the ills of today, I hope we also can stand together, a rainbow of colors and creeds, working to create a better America for all. For me, these aren’t just words—they are my intention.
Just as I finished writing this, I got this news update from the New York Times:
“Seven years ago, in the gauzy afterglow of a stirring election night in Chicago, commentators dared ask whether the United States had finally begun to heal its divisions over race and atone for the original sin of slavery by electing its first black president. It has not. Not even close.
A new New York Times/CBS News poll reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.”
This survey does not change my intention—it only makes it stronger. The bandaids are off so we can see the poison underneath. Let’s dig deep and make some real change.