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New York, New York 10022
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Outraged by increasing racial and religious intolerance, as well as social injustice and human rights violations, the Central Synagogue Social Action Committee was saddened and frustrated by the failure of the African-American and Jewish communities to work together as effectively as they might and even at times, simply to communicate. For these reasons, Central Synagogue sought an occasion for these two communities to work in partnership, to celebrate the shared vision of an America rich in opportunity, free of oppression, and to build bridges of understanding and cooperation between African-Americans and Jews. The moment presented itself in the thirty-fifth anniversary of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, murdered in 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Here was one of recent history's most vivid examples of African-Americans and Jews struggling together, and, tragically, dying together. And here lay an opportunity to assure that they did not die in vain. The goal would not be merely to memorialize them, but to advance the promise they once represented, and not just with words but also with deeds.
On June 15, 1999, the Central Synagogue Social Action Committee, together with the New York Metropolitan Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolence and Grace United Methodist Church, (a predominantly African-American congregation located uptown) presented Advancing the Promise, an evening of inspiration and hope. Approximately 1,000 people in attendance were moved by keynote speakers Representative John Lewis (D-GA), and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Each spoke of the past, the reality of today and the need to confront racism if we are to hope for a better tomorrow. Members of the Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner families, including Andrew Goodman's mother, Dr. Carolyn Goodman also spoke of efforts underway to further the promise. The voices - and the messages - were inspiring.
With this inspiring beginning, Central Synagogue's Social Action committee has undertaken a series of projects with Grace Church:
- Central Synagogue's first Joint Heritage Seder, a Passover Seder to tell the story of our common experience as slaves and our common hope of redemption;
- An inter-religious celebration to honor the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King;
- The participation of Grace Church in Central Synagogue's annual Mitzvah Day; and
- An ongoing program of study and dialogue to build trust and faith.
While many congregations have partnerships with African-American churches, few have developed as in-depth and diverse programming as Central Synagogue and Grace Church.
Is your congregation looking for more ways to reach out to the community? Check out the Religious Action Center Program Bank.