2018-01-31 / Voice at the Shore

Jewish clergy, other leaders stress MLK’s legacy of unity at NAACP event

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor


From left: NAACP President Kaleem Shabazz, new AC Mayor Frank Gilliam, his son Frank Gilliam III, and Rabbi Jonathan and Ellie Kremer at AC’s Civil Rights Garden during the MLK Day commemoration on Monday, Jan. 15. From left: NAACP President Kaleem Shabazz, new AC Mayor Frank Gilliam, his son Frank Gilliam III, and Rabbi Jonathan and Ellie Kremer at AC’s Civil Rights Garden during the MLK Day commemoration on Monday, Jan. 15. Education for all. Civility. Overcoming hate with determination and love.

These and other ideals espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King were celebrated at the annual commemoration of the civil rights leader’s birthday on Monday, January 15, held by the Atlantic City Chapter of the NAACP. Several local Jewish clergy members joined with their Christian and Muslim counterparts and other Atlantic City leaders to speak at the event.

A throng of people braved the day’s 18- degree temperatures for the annual civil rights march down Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard that began the day’s commemorative activities. The marchers stopped briefly at AC’s Civil Rights Gardens to hear speeches by AC’s new mayor Frank Gilliam and New Jersey State Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo.


Rabbi Aaron Krauss reads scripture at the NAACP Dr. Martin Luther King Day observance on Monday, Jan. 15. Rabbi Aaron Krauss reads scripture at the NAACP Dr. Martin Luther King Day observance on Monday, Jan. 15. Both politicians expressed dismay at recent “signs of regress” with respect to civil rights and the treatment of minorities.

“Love is the solution to this,” said Gilliam, invoking the spirit of Dr. King. “We are going to govern with love and compassion.”

Mazzeo echoed the same sentiment. “Hate has no room in our society,” he said. “I’m going to work with everyone to make this a place where we can all work together.”

Following the speeches, Rabbi Jonathan Kremer of Shirat Hayam offered his benediction. He then warmed up the shivering crowd by leading them in the spirited singing of “Hinei Ma Tov,” whose lyrics state: “Behold how good and pleasant it is for people to dwell together in unity.”

“Let us go forward and carry Dr. King’s message in our hearts and souls,” Kremer concluded.

Marchers then pressed on to their final destination, the St. James AME church. There they merged into a crowd of 300 people that included mostly African Americans as well as a handful of others. Among the Jewish community members in attendance were: Rabbi Aaron Krauss of Beth El, who traditionally reads scripture at the event; Cantor Ralph Goren; JCC CEO Jack Fox; representatives of Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti- Defamation League, as well as several other Jewish community members.

NAACP President Kaleem Shabazz, organizer of the MLK Day event, spoke of the need for more people of color in the Atlantic County judiciary and in key local agencies. “As we speak, there are no people of color at the SJTA or CRDA, and those are conditions that are unacceptable,” he said. “That can’t go on and we’re going to speak out against it.”

Shabazz also spoke of the NAACP’s new scholarship fund and the need to promote members of the NAACP youth council and other local youth. Toward that end, he announced that his organization had established a new scholarship fund with the help of contributions from local real estate developers, many local law firms, and the Schultz-Hill Foundation.

The event’s featured speaker, Atlantic Cape Community College President Dr. Barbara Gaba, further underscored the need to educate today’s youth, regardless of income level, to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Gaba, who is both the first African American and the first woman to lead the local community college, spoke eloquently of being raised in a New York City housing project by a single mother who grew up in the Jim Crow south. “My mother instilled in us the need to excel. She told us: ‘You have to be twice as good to be recognized,’” said Gaba, who has established a scholarship at ACCC in her mother’s honor.

Gaba said she felt a kinship with ACCC students, many of whom came from a similar background to hers. She also spoke of the college’s commitment to providing affordable education and workforce training, and its eagerness to be part of “the next wave of growth in Atlantic County.”

“We must build on the Foundation that Dr. King laid,” said Caba, making reference to King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, in which he said: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.”

“Let us continue to do the work of Dr. Martin Luther King,” added Caba, who noted that according to King, “Intelligence plus character—that is the true goal of education.” 

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