Honoring MLK Through Seeking Justice

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This Monday, as we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commemorate the achievements of this great visionary, we should use this opportunity to recognize that each of us has a responsibility to bring about social justice and social change.

As this principled man once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Judaism teaches us about social justice through the core values of tikkun olam (repair the world) and tzedakah. From an early age, we learn about our collective responsibility to the greater world through our texts and through our actions, and we are called upon to participate in making the world a better place whether by volunteering, donating or random acts of kindness.

In Baltimore, living these Jewish values is critically important. As the city struggles with many of the same issues confronting other big cities today — poverty, lack of education, crime — we know that the health of our Jewish community is inextricably intertwined with the health of our city. Its struggles impact us; its successes lift us up.

In many ways, the Baltimore Jewish community is already engaged in this arena. And, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, which has been a vital part of the community for close to 100 years, is leading the way, fostering healthy neighborhoods, investing in educational opportunities for the city’s youth and promoting civil discourse.

Associated agencies like CHAI build strong neighborhoods daily, bringing together Jewish, African American and Latino neighbors in the community and in the area schools. Pearlstone is investing in Baltimore’s children and teens through the Promise Heights initiative in partnership with the University of Maryland School of Social Work, bringing students from two city schools in the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhoods for sessions, workshops and an overnight retreat, which have increased school attendance.

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, more than 3,000 students from Baltimore City and the surrounding counties tour the Lloyd Street Synagogue and the museum’s myriad exhibits, learning about Jewish history and participating in personal identity-building workshops.

By feeding the hungry and engaging in the classroom, volunteers from Jewish Volunteer Connection strive to meet core community needs through understanding the impact of food insecurity and poverty.

Several years ago, The Associated convened a group of volunteer leaders who participated in the Baltimore Community Partnership Committee to explore ways to strengthen our city. After intensive discussion and research, they proposed a framework that includes building on social justice initiatives already in place through Associated agencies, developing stronger collaborations in the city and involving the Jewish community in this important work.

This year, as we comme- morate 51 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., let us use his inspiration to affect change throughout the year and work together to promote understanding and unity.

Ronald Attman is chair of The Associated’s Community Planning and Allocations.

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