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'Lift Every Voice and Sing'

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Interfaith service honors King's legacy with words and music

By Sandy Barnes

Rabbi Jamie Arnold sang an upbeat rendition of “Wade in the Water” accompanied by a hand-clapping congregation celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday night.

 

The interfaith service hosted by Congregation Beth Evergreen blended meaningful African-American and Hebrew music with reflections on the life of King and his legacy.

“We are bound together,” Arnold said. “It’s a celebration, and it’s a time for us together.”

Just as “Wade in the Water” carried significance for slaves whom abolitionists were helping to freedom in the mid-1800s, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sung by Jackie Delafose, is the African-American national anthem.

After performing, Delafose, an administrator at Conifer High School, talked about her experience in the civil rights movement.

As a young student in the early days of integration, Delafose said was bussed to a white school while growing up in Louisiana. 

“My parents were very afraid,” she said. “They had concerns.”

During his remarks, the Rev. Dr. James L. Fouther Jr., senior pastor of the United Church of Montbello, talked about the connection between American Jewry and the civil rights movement in the 1960s. 

While marching with King from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “I felt like my legs were praying,” Fouther said.

King and Heschel worked together for the benefit of black and Jewish Americans, as well as Israel, he noted.

Fouther also pointed to the accomplishment of having a black president elected to two terms — something that many African-Americans thought they would never see, he said.

“We have seen both election and re-election,” said Fouther, while speaking about Barack Obama, whose second inauguration had taken place earlier in the day.

Fouther said that through working with the interfaith community and engaging in conversations, bridges can be built.

“Let us chart a path where we can make memories together,” he said.

The service closed with the Hebrew benediction, “May you be blessed when you come in, and when you leave, may you be blessed again.”

 

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@vergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.