On the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I am honored to share an article of mine that ran in The Huffington Post. It looks at the connection between Martin Luther King’s call to action and the Jewish narrative, suggesting that at a time when our country and our world are so polarized, it is the passion and idealism of the next generation who will return us to the sense of purpose and values inspired by both MLK and Jewish tradition.
In the spirit of the challenge I issue in the article, I am also making a pledge. In the coming year, I will create and support more opportunities for young people to serve real needs in meaningful ways. I am looking at a variety of models, including partnerships with secular service and Jewish organizations, expanding service-learning experiences and supporting innovative efforts, like Repair the World’s Campaign for Jewish Service, focusing on literacy and educational equity in the United States and Israel. I welcome your input and suggestions on experiences that interest you.
I will also continue to pay forward the lessons I learned from my father and the values I shared with my husband by committing to serve more frequently, both with my granddaughters and with all of you. I am starting today by joining with Teach For America corps members and scores of young Jewish volunteers in Washington, D.C., to create supplies for hundreds of students in under-resourced classrooms across the region. We look forward to sharing pictures from our project and hope you all will share with us how you spent the day giving back and paying forward.
From The Huffington Post:
I was a young girl the first time I learned about the concept of paying it forward. My dad was advancing tuition payments for a struggling medical student, and the student asked how he could pay him back. “By being successful and helping someone else,” he told him.
I had already been volunteering with my dad for a few years by then. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of holding his hand as we visited elderly people who had nobody else to care for them.
It wasn’t until years later, however, that I understood these expressions of my father’s universal ideals stemmed from the millennia-old values that provide much of the moral and ethical foundation of Jewish life—tzedek (justice), chesed (loving-kindness) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).