This story comes to us from TableMakers, a Schusterman initiative that helps REALITY alumni to create and host dynamic Shabbat experiences for their peers. The experience described below was organized by Jason Crain, a Technical Product Manager and Entrepreneur in Residence at Amazon.com in Atlanta, GA. He graduated from Morehouse College, and hails from Kansas City, Mo. Here, Jason shares his thoughts from our MLK Day Shabbat dinner hosted in partnership with Repair the World. The dinner was part of Repair's Turn the Tables dinner series and an extension of their #ActNowForRacialJustice campaign. Learn more at www.werepair.org/mlk-day/host.
“I’m not Jewish, nor have I ever attended a Shabbat, but I wanted to see what this was about. Seemed like a good way to celebrate MLK day,” said Nana Thompson, a young lady who attended the MLK Day Shabbat Dinner, organized by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
Before dinner, I walked around and introduced myself to the patrons; Nana’s sentiment seemed to be a popular one. More than 100 people RSVP’d, some familiar but most strangers, some young and some old, some black and some white, and as noted, some were Jewish and others weren’t. Celebrating Dr. King’s legacy was the common ground.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a master orator. He used his words to ease the tensions, caused by insurmountable injustices that were cataclysmic in the South, but echoed throughout the United States. Dr. King replaced fighting with communication. He believed in communicating peacefully to bring unity. And in this spirit, Dr. King worked alongside prominent Jewish leaders and local temples during the civil rights movement.
Thinking about Dr. King’s example, I recognized why so many non-Jewish African Americans were in attendance for Shabbat. We were eager to accept the invitation to fellowship. We were eager to gather in a safe place with others that respected our differences and celebrated our similarities.
Communication is what brought us all together for Shabbat. To engage in conversation about race and discuss the topics that were heavy on the hearts of American society. To voice an opinion and to be listened to. If anything, just to hear others' perspectives. From dialogue comes understanding, from understanding comes empathy, from empathy we find compassion and through compassion we get progress—progress towards equality and unity.
Thank you to the Schusterman Foundation for recognizing that. Hosting this Shabbat was an empathetic acknowledgment of the pain that currently weighs on the African American community. That observation is critical to help stitch the wounds that are left open and unhealed from centuries prior.
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.