Young Israel Joins Civil Rights Journey

Young Israel Joins Civil Rights Journey

By Arlene Appelrouth |

When Young Israel of Toco Hills Rabbi Adam Starr found out that more than 100 Jews from the Washington area were heading south to learn about the civil rights movement, he wanted to join them.

After some quick arrangements, about 20 Young Israel members drove to Alabama on Friday, Jan. 13, to join the first leg of the civil rights tour. Rabbi Starr assured them they would be back in Atlanta before

The D.C. group’s trip, arranged to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, included the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Ala., and Shabbat in Selma, where the group visited the Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The Washington travelers came to Atlanta on Sunday, meeting more than 40 Young Israel members at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

The group stood arm in arm in a circle at King’s graveside and sang the 23rd Psalm. A video posted by Reuven Walder on Facebook can be seen through Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld’s page (

For Rabbi Starr, the trip provided an opportunity for a reunion. The rabbis from the Washington-area synagogues, Rabbi Herzfeld from Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue and Uri Topolosky from Beth Joshua Congregation, are his friends.

“We all worked together when we were assistant rabbis,” Rabbi Starr said, referring to his tenure at a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Riverdale, N.Y. “I thought it was amazing they were coming south for this trip.”

The three rabbis were students of Rabbi Avi Weiss’.

“This trip is his kind of activity,” Rabbi Starr said. “He was our rebbe for spiritual activism.”

Rabbi Starr found the civil rights educational trip meaningful. “Learning about the heroes of the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Ala., was meaningful and a great way to kick off the MLK weekend.”

Rabbi Herzfeld wrote on Facebook that the weekend exceeded his expectations. “It was so much more intense, uplifting, raw, emotional and inspiring than anything I could have possibly imagined.”

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