The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
“Let justice well up like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
Thus did the prophet Amos call upon all of us to never be complacent, to always promote justice and righteousness, even in the midst of a desert where there might rarely flow a mighty stream. That was the spirit of those who marched on the Journey of Justice last summer, including 200 of my rabbinic colleagues. And, that was the spirit of our Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative gathering in Havre de Grace on Sunday, January 17, 2016.
Reverend Baron Young of St. James AME Church and I met at an NAACP breakfast a few years ago and decided to study the book of Genesis together. And, we searched for a way to bring our congregations together in the small town of Havre de Grace, Maryland. What we needed was a joint project, something tangible and engaging that began one year on MLK weekend, and would conclude the following year.
So, we decided to make a mosaic. One of our very talented members, Debbie Temple, designed the River of Justice mosaic, based on the verse from the prophet Amos, which so inspired MLK. Throughout the year, groups of congregants from our temple and the church gathered at a table with bowls of little tiles before them and created patterns within the outline of the riverbanks that Debbie had drawn. And, with a flurry of tiling and gluing in the waning hours before MLK day, the River of Justice was completed.
Over 100 local Havre de Grace citizens gathered at Temple Adas Shalom, with photographers and reporters and local politicians, for the dedication of the River of Justice, with a program that included our choirs singing “We Shall Overcome” and “Oseh Shalom,” in harmony together.
The program and the entire experience was extraordinary. We were especially honored to hear from three outstanding speakers. Rabbi Daniel Plotkin, who participated in the Journey for Justice from Selma to Washington, D.C. last summer, spoke stirringly of the spirit of those who marched for education reform, criminal justice reform, economic justice and voting rights. Keshia Thomas, who also participated in the march and is traveling the country as a motivational speaker for many human rights causes, just happened to be in the area and we were so thrilled that she was able to join us. And Philip Hunter, a retired local attorney for the federal government, who as a teenager in Selma, Alabama in 1965, marched for voting rights, and was threatened and beaten.
We also sang a new song, based on the Amos verse, called “Let Justice Roll” as the mosaic was unveiled to gasps of amazement. The mosaic will hang at the church for half the year, and at the temple for half the year.
After the event, almost everyone stayed to socialize and to work on another project, tying fleece blankets for the homeless of our county. And we signed postcards to be sent to Congress in support of the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The next morning, our little town of Havre de Grace rejoiced to find a front page story with lots of great photos in the Baltimore Sun, and then a major article in the Baltimore Jewish Times.
And now, we call upon all of you who read this blog, to find partners in your community to do a version of this project. We would love to give you our template for the River of Justice mosaic, with easy instructions.
Let’s be in touch, and let’s keep justice rolling.
Gila Ruskin is the rabbi at Temple Adas Shalom in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Contact Rabbi Ruskin here.