Remarks from the ‘March on Monument’

Yesterday, I was honored to stand and speak alongside my friends and righteous faith leaders Rev. Melanie Mullen and Dr. Archana Pathak at the March on Monument, a local march for inclusion and justice organized to support the Women’s March on Washington next week. It appeared to me that about two thousand people or so were there to march with us. Here are my remarks:
Today is Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, a time when most people would say that the place of a rabbi is to be leading worship in synagogue.
But human equality is the most fundamental tenet of my faith. We equally bear God’s image, and descend from the same supernal parent. We are all of us singling. None of us has the right to harm or oppress another. Each of us is duty-bound to lift up each other.
That’s why my spiritual mentor, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, wrote in 1963 that “we forfeit the right to worship God” as long as inequality persists. How, after all, can we stand before the Creator of all when some of God’s children are privileged and powerful while others are humiliated and subjugated?
So long as a child in Richmond’s East End can’t receive the same quality of education as children in the West End, I forfeit my right to pray.
So long as people whose native language is Spanish or Arabic don’t have the same opportunities as English-speakers, I forfeit my right to pray.
So long as people in positions of ultimate power exalt themselves by denigrating immigrants and refugees, I forfeit my right to pray.
So long as I’m free to love who I want while LGBTQ Americans aren’t, I forfeit my right to pray.
So long as I can use the bathroom I require but transgendered Americans can’t, I forfeit my right to pray.
So long as I can have whatever healthcare I want because of my age, sex, health history, and income level, but people who are poorer, or sicker, are denied access to affordable care, I forfeit my right to pray.
So long as women can’t get paid the same amount of money for the same amount of work as me, or when violence against their bodies is not treated as seriously as violence against mine would be, I forfeit my right to pray.
So long as Robert E. Lee gets a statue in his honor, but Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice can’t get justice, I forfeit my right to pray.
Participating in today’s march, to me, is a most profound act of worship. It’s what Heschel meant when he said that marching in Selma was like praying with his feet. It’s how I can stand before God in this time with any measure of spiritual integrity.
And it’s why this moment of ours calls for what Heschel called “moral grandeur and spiritual audacity,” the capacity to stand up against powerful forces seeking to uplift some at the expense of the dignity and welfare of others. And if we exercise that courage of spirit, we will ultimately be successful, because, as Dr. King said, “the right, even if temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” By coming together, lifting our voices, moving our feet, and supporting each other, we will indeed overcome.
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