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Religious Service Honors Two Civil Rights Leaders

Jewish, Black Choirs Praise MLK Observance

On Friday, Jan. 18, Sixth and I Historic Synagogue was the site for the 15th annual MLK Shabbat. The location was the former site of Turner Memorial AME, the co-convener since this service began.

Selerya Moore, a lifetime member of Turner Memorial AME, helped to open the service by telling the congregation about the 50-year history of Turner Memorial, formerly located where Sixth & I now exists. She pointed out some of the significant areas in the sanctuary.

“We had five choirs,” Moore said as she pointed out where each choir sat. “There were great things going on in this church.”

Shabbat is a Jewish service that usually begins at sundown on Friday. The MLK Shabbat honors the civil rights work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The strong friendship between the two leaders grew from their shared vision about equality for all.

This year’s MLK Shabbat consisted of sermons from Rabbi Shira Stutman, senior rabbi at Sixth & I and Rev. Dr. D.K. Kearney, pastor at Turner Memorial. Choirs from Sixth & I and Turner Memorial sang songs of faith that were composed or arranged by Marty Austin Lamar. Lamar is director of music and creative arts at Metropolitan AME Church and an artist-in-residence at Sixth & I.

Stutman’s, whose sermon focused on anti-Semitism, admitted avoiding the topic for many years but felt compelled to talk about it because of the current political climate in America.

“Many of us brush off anti-Semitic comments,” Stutman said, specifically referring to inadvertently offensive comments and failed attempts at humor that people often make. “I acknowledged that I am a part of the privileged class and I can no longer brush off those comments.”

Kearney said the joint Shabbat is an example of how to fight many of society’s adversities.

“We can’t let what is happening down the street keep us from going forward,” Kearney said, referring to the current White House administration.

The service closed with the congregation holding hands while singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Following the service, Sixth & I hosted a reception where congregants learned about social justice work in the D.C. area from 12 local organizations. On Sunday, Jan. 20, at their Hyattsville, Md., location, Turner Memorial hosted Sixth & I for morning worship to continue the focus on the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

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