Celebrations abounded this week to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During the event that took place Friday at Congregation B’nai Israel in Fayetteville, one of King’s goals was realized according to organizers.
Congregants from Flat Creek A.M.E. Church (the oldest African American church in Fayetteville), along with their pastor who is also the mayor of Fayetteville, as well as other clergy and community representatives joined B’nai Israel congregants in worship.
“Two communities of different faiths and colors, history and culture came together united in spirit, inspired by songs and focused on inclusiveness,” as one participant put it.
Fayetteville Mayor Edward Johnson addressed the joint congregation of about 150 people, stating that “Congregation B’nai Israel is blessed with Rabbi [Rick] Harkavy who embodies the spirit of Martin Luther King.”
The mayor’s wife, Dr. Vanessa Johnson, joined Temple president Sharon Hudgins in lighting the Shabbat candles as the congregation chanted along.
Dr. Arlene Presser, a consultant to the United States Office of Minority Health, herself a member of CBI and African American, spoke about the need for inclusiveness and “unity in the community” to fight injustice. She traced her maternal line to Ghana and cited that more than 120 countries have Jewish communities – “Jews in many hues,” she explained.
The Temple choral group, ‘Rhythm and Jews,’ and the church gospel choir, Voices of Inspiration, took turns singing at the service.
Both Rabbi Harkavy and Mayor Johnson agreed that while this was the first joint event there would be several more, according to a spokesperson.