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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech On Soviet Jewry

Read the original text of King’s December 1966 address to the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry

Jesse Bernstein
January 12, 2018

This Monday, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day across the country. While nearly every aspect of the great man’s life has been analyzed from every angle, including his relationship with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Jewish community, there are still little-known gems in the archives.

One of those is a speech Dr. King wrote on behalf of Soviet Jews. In December 1966, on Hanukkah, the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry was having a nation-wide organizing conference call, and invited Dr. King to speak over the phone, an offer he gladly accepted. What followed was a rousing address on behalf of what he called a “withered and restricted Jewish community.”

“Individual Jews,” Dr. King said in his comments, “may in the main be physically and economically secure in Russia, but the absence of opportunity to associate as Jews in the enjoyment of Jewish culture and religious experience becomes a severe limitation upon an individual.”

You can read the address and the history of how it came together here.

Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.

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