Reflecting upon Dr. King and his impact on my life, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the radio special bulletin revealed that Dr. King had been shot. My mother taught her entire life in a Newark African-American school, with students who were taught by people of various skin colors and ethnic backgrounds. My father worked in a Newark company where people of various ethnic groups and colors worked together. I can even remember details about the night when Newark elected its first African-American mayor, and how as a teenager I was overjoyed by that election. For me, therefore, Dr. King’s death was a severe setback for America and for the causes of freedom. I admit that growing up in Irvington, NJ, my friends were all white; and therefore I never experienced—being a white person—the obstacles faced by minority groups struggling for equality in education, in housing and in the job market. Nevertheless, my parents raised me the way I have raised my children; to respect the right of each person to live with dignity and to recognize how each of us deserves the equal opportunity to pursue our dreams in a free society. We have made great strides in America, yet discrimination and oppression linger in alarming proportions. However we commemorate Dr. King’s life, I hope we continue his fight to achieve full equality for all Americans, regardless of color, ethnicity, religious background, gender or sexual orientation.
Rabbi Michael Klayman
Lake Success Jewish Center
President, Great Neck Clergy Association