Published On: Tue, Jan 24th, 2017

Martin Luther King Day Interfaith Service in Boca Raton 32-Year Partnership Between Congregation B’nai Israel and Ebenezer Baptist Church Still Strong

img_4837-minister-george-spain_rev-howard-spain_deacon-al-bradleyA synagogue and African-American church celebrated Martin Luther King Day with a joint interfaith service on Sunday, January 15 at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Boca Raton.  The service marked a 32-year partnership between Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI) and Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, both of which are in Boca Raton.  Each year the two religious organizations join forces to further the cause of Black-Jewish relations in Palm Beach County and help feed families in need.

The service was a powerful and uplifting tribute to Dr. King, filled with musical and spiritual offerings from both congregations.  B’nai Israel’s Senior Rabbi Robert Silvers, Congregation B’nai Israel’s Cantor’s Chantors (CBI’s choir), led by Cantorial Associate, Sarah Freudenberger, church leaders and members of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church Choir, all participated in the service.

“Martin Luther King Jr. lived his life in pursuit of healing the schisms of prejudice, bigotry and injustice. For 32 years, our two congregations have come together over MLK Jr. weekend not only to celebrate this man’s life and the ideals he stood for, but also to be inspired to carry on his legacy and his work. No matter one’s faith, color, ethnicity or political persuasion, it is a message we must hear today… It is a message we must all take to heart; it is a message that brings salvation; it is the eternal message of justice and righteousness that redeems our society and our world,” Rabbi Silvers said.

This past Thanksgiving, the two religious institutions fed Thanksgiving dinner to nearly 4,000 people in need, as part of the 32-year Feed the Hungry 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.

“With the recent election and its divisions, it’s important that Ebenezer & CBI continue to set an example of unity and cultural diversity by worshipping together in brotherly love.  We should remember Psalms 133:1, ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,’ ” said Greg Russ, a Deacon representing the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church leadership.

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.

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