Dr. King’s Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood – February 26, 1965

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke from the bimah of Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles on Shabbat evening, February 26, 1965, only five days after the assassination of Malcolm X.

Security was tight around the synagogue on that evening. Sharpshooters were placed on the apartment building across the street on Hollywood Boulevard. Dr. King delivered his sermon with two large body guards standing directly behind him.

The Sanctuary was filled to capacity with 1400+ congregants. Rabbi Max Nussbaum reminded the congregation that since it was Shabbat, applause following Dr. King’s remarks would be inappropriate. He said: “You will wish to applaud, and you will not do so!”

This existence of the recorded speech was discovered by the wider Los Angeles Jewish community and was noted in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal before Martin Luther King Day in 2007. National Public Radio learned of it from the LAJJ article and requested permission to air it nationally that year. It was aired both in 2007 and 2008.

The speech borrows from many other addresses Dr. King delivered over the course of his career and is an example of the eloquence, passion, and deep intellect that was Dr. King. He was 35 years old when he delivered it.

You can listen here – http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlktempleisraelhollywood.htm




Why “Jewish Voice for Peace” is anti-Jewish

It is clear from the statement and video (see link) that “Jewish Voice for Peace” (JVP) is an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel group that distorts Israel’s history to justify its antipathy to Zionism and Israel, attacks Israel’s mission as a Jewish and democratic state, and chooses facts selectively while providing no historical or political context to its assertions.

…. JVP is not only anti-Zionist and anti-Israel, but because it denies the right of the Jewish people to a state of our own, it qualifies as anti-Jewish.

For the full statement see my blog at the Times of Israel – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/why-jewish-voice-for-peace-is-anti-jewish/


Your Anti-BDS Crusade Hurts Jews, Forward – Jeremy Ben-Ami

This is an important perspective for American Jews vis a vis BDS.

Jeremy Ben-Ami is the founder and President of J Street, the largest Jewish PAC in the United States.

“Like the vast majority of American Jews, I oppose the BDS movement, as does J Street, the organization I lead. And I believe that our overwrought communal response to BDS is doing far more damage to American Jews and to Israel’s reputation than the movement itself could ever hope to do. This obsession is harming Jewish institutions and eroding important relationships with other communities, particularly communities of color. It is undermining our core values and distracting from far more important challenges — both in Israel and at home. It is creating an atmosphere of paranoia and censorship….While the Jewish community continues to pour staggering resources into the BDS fight, we have neglected far more urgent challenges. It is the current Israeli government’s continued creeping annexation of the occupied West Bank, not BDS, which seriously threatens Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. It is the rise of white supremacism and authoritarian nationalism, not BDS, which seriously threatens the future of American democracy and American Jews. We can’t let the bogeyman of BDS undermine our community’s true ideals and interests. We have to end this obsession — and turn our attention and resources to the fights that truly matter for our country, Israel and the Jewish people.”

See entire article here – https://bit.ly/2FMlAo2


Headlines like these reveal the disturbing consequences of the American…

The Waters of Meribah Before and After Sinai – Parashat B’shalach

“Pass before the people … take the rod with which you struck the Nile…Strike the rock and water will issue from it and the people will drink? And Moses did as he was told. The name of the place was called Meribah because it was a place where the Israelites quarreled.” (Exodus 17:5-7)

This event, at the close of this week’s parashat B’shalach, occurred in the first year of the 40 years of wandering.

At the end of the 40 years the people returned to the waters of Meribah and cried again for sweet water. God spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the staff and assemble the community, you and Aaron your brother, and you shall speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water, and you shall bring forth water for them from the rock and give drink to the community and to its beasts.” (Numbers 20:7-8)

Moses, however, didn’t do as Gold had told him. Enraged by the people’s complaints, Moses struck the rock twice with his rod. Water indeed came out but God wasn’t pleased: “Inasmuch as you did not trust Me to sanctify Me before the eyes of the Israelites, so you shall not bring this assembly to the land that I have given to them.” (Numbers 10:12)

Two incidents at the same place, Meribah, 40 years apart – the first Moses was told to hit the rock and was praised; the second time, Moses was told to speak to the rock, hit it instead, and was punished.

Rabbi Marc Gellman explains that between these two events was the revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah. Sinai was intended to change the people through the covenant and transform raw emotions to reason, physical strength to law, violence to dialogue, and brutality to compassion and justice.

Moses’ defiance the 2nd time was his greatest sin because in hitting the rock Moses showed the people that Sinai had changed nothing at all. God intended that a new age would commence then, but Moses prevented history from moving forward. Sinai wasn’t large enough to matter.

We have to ask – did Moses really not understand God’s command to speak to the rock and its meaning?  Rabbi Gellman believes that he did and developed this midrash to explain:

“Moses understood clearly that God wanted him to speak to the rock and usher in the Messianic age of peace and tranquility; however, Moses knew that though the desert land was behind, the land of Canaan was ahead… Moses knew that even though the land was given by God, it would still have to be taken by the people. And [he] knew that the people could not take the land without force….that the strong hand that smote the Egyptians would still be needed to smite the Canaanites. Moses knew that it was too soon for the power of the fist to yield to the power of the word and… by hitting the rock [God would not allow him to] enter the land … [but] at least the people would be able to enter the land.

Moses said to God: ‘It’s too soon for the power of the fist to yield to the power of the word….’

God asked Moses: ‘When do you think it will be time?’

Moses answered: ‘I don’t know. All I do know is that…You were the One Who [first] sanctified the power of the fist…  the people learned that the land and the fist go together. If You wanted the fist You should never have given me the signs and wonders. Now it’s too late.”

God was silent… [Moses] said: “Why did You let me do the miracles? Why did You command me to strike the rock the first time? …If the power of the fist is to disappear it must begin with You, El Shaddai. Together we have made Your people free of Pharaoh’s power only to enslave them again to the power of the fist. O God, help us to become free for Your words.”

God said to Moses: “When my people enters the land you shall not enter with them, and neither shall I. I shall only allow a part of My presence to enter. The abundance of My presence I shall keep outside the land. The exiled part … shall be called My Shekhinah and it shall remind the people that I too am in exile… I shall be whole again on that day when the power of the fist vanishes forever. Only on that day will I be One. Only on that day will My Name be One. Only on that day Moses, shall we enter the land together. Only on that day Moses, shall the waters of Meribah become the waters of justice and righteousness shall gush from My holy mountain.”

Then God lifted Moses to Heaven …and the shepherd’s staff slipped from his hand, fell into the waters of Meribah, and was gone forever. And God kissed Moses on the lips and took his breath away.”

We wait still for the power of the word to vanquish the power of the fist, for the world to yield to reason, law, justice, dialogue, compassion, righteousness, and understanding.








Tamika Mallory on “The View” Refuses to condemn Minister Farrakhan

Yes – Farrakhan has done much for African Americans, but his good works are tarnished by his vicious anti-Semitic, homophobic and bigoted rhetoric over many years. That Tamika Mallory avoids condemning Farrakhan’s hatred is a discredit to her.
That being said, it’s good that the national women’s march has condemned anti-Semitism and homophobia, but as long as Ms. Mallory continues to be a visual leader of the March, the national March is tarnished and tainted by hate and bigotry. One would think that the March’s leadership would either demand that Ms, Mallory publicly disassociate herself from Farrakhan or they would ask for her resignation from the leadership.
The move this week by Republican House leadership to strip Rep. King of all committee assignments accompanied by calls for his resignation from Congress for his bigotry and racism is a credit to the Republican leadership. If only they would do the same vis a vis the occupant of the White House. Why can’t the Women’s March do the same vis a vis Ms. Mallory?
Here is the conversation on the view. https://youtu.be/iRzOS7SNKmY

Dr. Martin Luther King – In celebration and Memory

I can’t help but feel how much further we’ve come as a nation since Dr. King’s life ended so suddenly and tragically. Anyone alive then will remember where you were when you heard the news, and we’ll remember Robert F. Kennedy’s poetic, compassionate and eloquent response in the rust belt states that evening of Dr. King’s death.

With the blaring light of this corrupted Trump era, it ought to be clear to anyone with a conscience that we still have much distance to travel to fulfill Dr. King’s aspirations and the aspirations proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence.

Trudge on we must! I’m confident that these next two years will move us forward as a nation in many areas with our new Congress, and as candidates begin to declare their quest for the White House, we’ll be setting the stage for another epic battle at the polls next year which, with effort, a far better outcome will be forthcoming than was the case in 2016.

We at Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles celebrate Dr. King’s life and vision every year on the weekend commemorating his birth, and we’ll do so again this coming Friday during Kabbalat Shabbat services – January 18 at 6:30 pm. If you live in Los Angeles, please come and join us. The community is welcome.

We will play 13 minutes of a 43-minute sermon Dr. King delivered from our bimah at Temple Israel of Hollywood in April, 1965. The recording is so clear it’s as if he’s in the room with us, though it has been nearly 54 years since he stood before a packed congregation.

You can hear the entire speech here – https://www.tioh.org/images/audio_collection/MLKSpeech_TIOH_1965.mp3

For a longer selection of Dr. King’s most memorable quotations – go to my blog at the Times of Israel where I have posted them – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/dr-martin-luther-king-in-celebration-and-memory/ .

Note: The final quote is Dr. King’s statement of support for Zionism and the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

Request – Share the list with your friends from the Times of Israel. They will remind us not only of the greatness of the man, but of our own prophetic tradition and engagement as Jews in the struggle for human rights.


There are hearts that are stones – Reflecting on Trump’s latest outrage

“In contrast to the prophets of the Hebrew Bible who sought to establish goodness in the world, the President’s Oval Office speech this week exposes his malignant world view.”

This is taken from my blog at the Times of Israel. To read it, please go to https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/there-are-hearts-that-are-stones/




Israel’s existential threat

With the announcement this past week by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that  elections will be held on April 9 for a new Knesset, I hope that the words by Tamir Pardo, a former head of the Mossad (Israeli’s intelligence services), will be uppermost in the minds of a majority of Israelis when they cast their votes. He said:

“Israel has one existential threat. It is a ticking time bomb … Israel must deal with the demographic reality and [decide] which state we want to be. Life with alternative facts harbors a disaster for the Zionist vision. The key to saving the state requires brave leadership.”

The alternative facts he warns against is a one-state solution as the answer to Israel’s Palestinian conflict. But a one-state solution will compromise Israel as both a Jewish and a democratic state that the founding generation envisioned. The only credible alternative is a negotiated end-of-conflict two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.