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From Our President - 

Dear Congregation B’nai Shalom,

This January 20, from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, we will gather again for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Westborough High School. The co-hosts, including Westborough Connects and our Central MA Connections in Faith, have put together an amazing program for Westborough and the surrounding communities.

The first time I met with Rabbi Guervitz one-on-one, right after she became our Rabbi, we discussed bringing the community together for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Having planted that seed with Rabbi Gurevitz, she was able to turn an idea into reality through a grant opportunity brought by Pastor Jeff Goodrich of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, who had been thinking along similar lines, along with the incredible energy and organizational skills of Westborough Connects. Last year, much to my delight, we were treated to a wonderful day of learning, reflection, and remembrance for all ages.

The genesis of my discussion with her comes from my high school, Kingwood-Oxford in West Hartford, CT. When I was a freshman, the school announced that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day would no longer be a day off. Instead of normal classes, the school put together a day of special programming and curriculum with movies, electives, documentaries, and speakers. I remember the late Arthur Ashe speaking at our opening assembly. I also remember watching Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and having our black, white, and Latino members of our faculty moderate a thoughtful discussion for those of us who elected to watch the film.

April of my senior year was when the Rodney King verdict was announced and there were riots in Los Angeles as a result of the controversial acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. It was a huge story, dominating both newspapers and television news. It was not until I went to school the morning after the verdict was read and the LA riots began where I saw the impact on the African-American students at my school. That day our African-American community put distance between themselves and the rest of us. I saw unforgettable looks of anger and resentment. One of my closest friends, an Ethiopian refugee, told me that I just would not understand when I asked him what was wrong. Although I could not put myself in his shoes, it made me keenly aware that I live in a protective bubble.

As a small school of ~700, we were prepared to empathize with our students who felt the impact of the verdict and the subsequent riots. At the very least, we understood the problem, the sensitivity, the history, and we could comprehend the impact. I believe much of that can be attributed to the special programs we held on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Racism, anti-Semitism, and hate are on the rise. Many of us were not alive when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Washington, but it is so incredibly important that we remember that history and teach it to our children along with the many important lessons that come with it. In the words of Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal, “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.”
I hope you will join us for a morning of remembrance, community, learning and reflection.

Thank you,
Rob Blumberg
 

Mon, January 20 2020 23 Tevet 5780