National Reading of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
Please email email@example.com if you would like to participate in the reading. Please see eBlast for link to the live stream.
On April 16, 1963, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which was addressed to Birmingham's local white clergy, including at least one rabbi, who had been critical of King's organizing tactics. The Letter, now an important part of American Scripture, passionately expressed King's visions of a just society and contained the now-ubiquitous verse, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
The Jewish community marks time through ritual. On the Ninth of Av (and Purim, Yom Kippur, Shavuot and Pesach), we recite from biblical scrolls that capture the emotions and historical consciousness of a specific moment. In 2003, an attempt to do the same for the Holocaust resulted in the new Shoah Scroll. So too has there been effort to include Israel's Declaration of Independence as a sixth scroll in the Jewish canon. In an American context, approaches like that of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (Reconstructionist), Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (Reform) to Jewishly sanctify American moments are joined by the more recent efforts by Rabbi Irwin Kula and Dr. Vanessa Ochs to sanctify everyday moments. Given a renewal of Jewish attention to the ongoing work of Civil Rights, many Jewish leaders will "go live" on social media this Martin Luther King Jr Day at 1pm (Eastern) to recite portions of The Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Families can read together, schools and organizations can create multi-person Zoom meetings to be streamed live, and individuals can read portions on their own. And, while this will be a grassroots effort without requiring a centralized producer, everyone will be encouraged to use the hashtag #RecitingTheLetterFromBirmingham for future searches. In addition, a Facebook group "Reciting the Letter from a Birmingham Jail" has already been created as a repository for resharing all the created videos