Community Blog Hebrew College Professor Leads Symbolic Procession as Boston Jewish Community Allies with Civil Rights Leaders

By Josh Polanski
Boston Common

Read the JTA article about the event here.


Rabbi Michael ShireAs Boston receives its own “Statute of Liberty,” a 20-foot-high sculpture celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, Hebrew College faculty member Rabbi Michael Shire (right) will lead an interreligious Torah procession before the sculpture’s official installation at the Boston Common on Friday, January 13. The event, organized and led by Shire’s congregation at Central Reform Temple, marks an important moment in the history of Boston’s Jewish and Black communities. And it’s an exemplary illustration of a member of the Hebrew College community living out the institution’s mission to make the lives in our interconnected world “more meaningful, our communities more vibrant, and our world more whole.”

Joining Shire from Hebrew College will be Rabbi Or Rose, the founding director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership, and other members of the Miller Center community. “The sacred work of tikkun olam (societal repair) requires passionate and compassionate engagement with a diversity of people and institutions. Rabbi Michael Shire has been a champion of such efforts for decades, both in the US and in the UK. The Embrace interreligious Torah procession reflects this commitment,” said Rose. “He and the Central Reform Temple community honor the lives and legacies of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, and other exemplary Civil Rights and social justice figures as they ‘pray with their legs’ (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel).”

Rabbi Or Rose

“The Miller Center also wishes to applaud the entire Embrace team for their visionary work at the intersection of the arts, community organizing, and research. Through their bold interdisciplinary efforts, they are helping Bostonians actively participate in fulfilling Dr. King’s enduring dream of the establishment of the ‘beloved community,’” added Rose.

“My aim is to recapture the spirit of that partnership where together Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel were able to work on many issues including the war in Vietnam and the rights of Soviet Jews in the 1960s resulting in a repair to a fractured world,” said Shire.

The procession will begin at noon from Central Reform Temple at 15 Newbury Street and will proceed to the Boston Common. The installation takes place at 1:00 PM. The sculpture itself represents the iconic hug of the couple after MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

“As we align with the African American Civil Rights Movement leaders, I think of the work of Rabbi Heschel, who having studied the Hebrew Prophets in his youth, decided that he could not sit idly by in the 1960s as the Civil Rights Movement was leading the fight for justice for all,” said Shire, the Academic Director of the Hebrew College Master’s in Jewish Education program. “He met and befriended Rev Martin Luther King and together they marched a number of times, most notably from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, with the Sefer Torah cradled in their arms. Heschel said of King that he was ‘a sign that God had not forsaken the United States of America,’ and King remarked that Heschel was ‘a Hebrew Prophet of the modern era proclaiming justice and equality throughout the land.’”

“We will march again with Sefer Torah in hand to bring our message of hope and friendship to the issues of racial injustice and inequality, and we will rekindle the historic relationship of side-by-side sacred work for Jews and African Americans in the shadow of a new embrace,” said Shire.

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