- Rebeka Nissan
Winning Public Speaking, Day 2
Prompt: The second day’s prompt asked to explain how the universal theme of redemption applies to the Black community. Martin Luther King Jr. once compared the story of Exodus to the struggle of the Black community. Although the story of Passover is inspiring, there is something inherently different about the history of the Black community, please elaborate.
"וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ" - Love your fellow man as yourself
Many people have interpreted this sentence to mean that we must love our fellow Jew as we love ourselves, but clearly, that’s not what is written. Neither race nor religion is mentioned as a determining factor. This famous quote from the Torah was meant to teach us to be sympathetic and care for our fellow human beings.
The greatest similarity between the Black community and the Jewish community is facing persecution. The story of Passover is one of redemption. It is a story of a people who were enslaved and oppressed for hundreds of years, and then miraculously rose from the ashes as a strong and unified nation. Martin Luther King Jr., the charismatic and rhetorical genius, often used analogies to motivate his followers to fight for racial equality. Dr. King used the story of Exodus to gain support for the civil rights movement and give his followers the confidence to continue fighting against racial injustices. The story of Exodus is certainly inspiring, but it seems to be unrealistic for our generation. It’s not every day that G-d sends plagues to oppressors in order to free the oppressed. In the Biblical story, the Jews were freed from Egypt in what seems like a relatively short period of time. One day, they were slaves, and the next, they were free. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Black community. The 13th amendment, which officially prohibited slavery, was passed in 1865, but as we know the struggle was far from over. As a reaction to the Civil War, Jim Crow laws were implemented throughout the South. The segregation of public schools, transportation, restaurants, bathrooms, and even drinking fountains was mandated by many states.
Thankfully, in more recent history, the Black community has seen many advancements in rights, such as the 1964 Civil Rights act and the 1965 Voting Rights act, as well as the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in Brown v Board of Education, but the struggle is still ongoing. So, while Dr. King has compared himself to Moses, he represents something more than that. Not only the story of redemption but of the consistent struggle. The fight that has been ongoing for hundreds of years. The fight that we, as Jews, must help our fellow human beings fight. It is the fight for equality.