Interfaith Service in Boca Raton Marks 31 Year Partnership
A synagogue and African-American church celebrated Martin Luther King Day with a joint interfaith service on Sunday, January 17, 2016 at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Boca Raton. The service marked a 31-year partnership between Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI) and Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, both in Boca Raton.
Participating in the service were Reverend Winston Anderson, the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church Choir, and Congregation B’nai Israel’s Cantor’s Chantors (CBI’s choir), led by Cantorial Associate, Sarah Freudenberger. The service was a powerful and uplifting tribute to Dr. King, filled with musical and spiritual offerings from both congregations.
Speakers included Julius Jackson, Vice President of Ryan Millennium Group, Inc., who spoke about his experience in 1960’s St. Augustine when he had to hide in a grocery store owned by a Jewish couple to wait for an “all clear” in order to be able to continue marching for civil rights as one of Martin Luther King’s foot soldiers.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to again see the black community join hands with the Jewish community to promote the dream of Dr. King, more than fifty years after we marched in St. Augustine. A few members came up to me after the service and shared their sincere interest in reinvigorating the black and Jewish efforts to achieve Dr. King’s dream. I am looking forward to seeing the impact that we can have,” Julius Jackson said.
This past Thanksgiving, the two religious institutions fed Thanksgiving dinner to nearly 4,000 people in need, as part of the 31-year program. In 2014, Congregation B’nai Israel hosted the late Dr. Maya Angelou, as part of the 2014 Martin Luther King Day partnership, in what turned out to be one of her last public appearances.
The relationship between these two congregations began in 1984 when Congregation B’nai Israel approached Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, the largest and oldest African-American church in Boca Raton. During the early 1980’s, Jewish and Black relations were unsettled in the U.S. and the two congregations wanted to do something locally to quell the negativity. The first Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. interfaith service was held in 1985, the year before this day became a national holiday.