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I had the great honor to attend a lecture last week given by Dr. Susannah Heschel, professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College and daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, friend and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Her lecture marked the kickoff of “Legacy Week – 2019” – a week long annual Black History Month event in St. Petersburg that celebrates people and groups with different backgrounds coming together for the greater good. It was hosted by the Florida Holocaust Museum in collaboration with “Legacy Week 2019” and USF St. Petersburg and was sponsored in part by a grant from the Florida Humanities Council.

Dr. Heschel captivated the overflow audience with excerpts of both her father’s and Dr. King’s writings. We learned that it was Rabbi Heschel who brought Dr. King and his message to a wide Jewish audience, and it was Dr. King who made Rabbi Heschel a central figure in the struggle for civil rights; that they often lectured together and that their mutual concern was “saving the soul of America.”

Dr. Heschel spoke of her father’s and Dr. King’s belief that moral responsibility transcends class, creed and race; that the opposite of good is not evil but indifference and that silence in the presence of evil amounts to consent.

Dr. King once said of her father: “He has been with us in many struggles. I remember marching from Selma to Montgomery, how he stood at my side…I remember very well when we were in Chicago for the Conference on Religion and Race…to a great extent his speech inspired clergymen of all faiths to do something they had not done before.”

I felt honored for the opportunity to hear Dr. Heschel’s firsthand account of these two iconic leaders, two men of the cloth. Her lecture was inspiring, educational and extremely apropos for the divisive times in which we live.

Related Reading

  • Remembering Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Heschel on the road to social justice
  • Two Prophets, One Soul: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, by Harold M. Schulweis
  • Two Friends, Two Prophets – Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr., by Dr. Susannah Heschel