Rabbi Seymour Friedman remembers Rabbinical Delegation to Birmingham
that met with Reverend Martin Luther King 50 years ago
It took place 50 years ago, but the memory of the event and its importance is still vivid in Rabbi Seymour “Sy” Friedman’s mind. Rabbi Friedman was one of a contingent of 19 rabbis from the Northeast U.S. who flew to Birmingham, AL in May 1963 to show support for the injustices suffered by African Americans.
Rabbi Friedman is a resident of Vi at Aventura, a continuing care retirement community where he has lived for more than 10 years with his wife Devora. He continues to lead and participate in religious services at the community.
The four-day rabbinical mission to Birmingham predates the historic March on Washington which is being celebrate across the country. In fact, the Birmingham mission thrust the religious leaders into the throes of the civil rights movement and created a personal connection to Reverend Martin Luther King.
Four month before the famous Washington March, rabbinical leaders from the New York area made a resolution to send a delegation to Birmingham.
The Jewish Theological Seminary met and posed a question about how spiritual leaders “could be concerned only with Nazi cruelty when acts of injustice to fellow human beings were taking place in our country.”
The rabbis flew to Birmingham and visited numerous African American churches and demonstrated support by meeting and singing with parishioners. As Rabbi Friedman explained, “We all felt it was the right thing to do. In the Jewish faith we believe it is about dignity of the human individual.”
In recalling the visit Rabbi Friedman said: “We were participants in their church services and my job was to lead the parishioners in singing. We even taught them an ancient Hebrew hymn.”
The rabbis also met with Reverend Martin Luther King who had recently been released from a Birmingham jail. “King was a very inspiring, charismatic man,” said Rabbi Friedman. “I don’t believe there are many people alive today who met with King on such a personal level.”
About Rabbi Friedman, Vi at Aventura Executive Director James Edwartoski said: “He has spent his entire life educating and mentoring people both inside and outside his faith. His early involvement in the civil rights movement is a perfect example of the caring individual that he is. He certainly was way ahead of his time when he went to Birmingham.”
Vi (pronounced vee), recently celebrated its 25th anniversary as a developer, owner and operator of senior living communities. The company is dedicated to enriching the lives of older adults by providing quality environments, services and care. Vi currently operates ten continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) nationwide. For more information about Vi Aventura on West Country Club Drive, call 305- 692-4829 or visit www.ViLiving.com