Philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce coined the term “beloved community” in the early 1900s, but the phrase gained popularity when it was used frequently by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his call to transform his community with “an all-inclusive spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood” and eradicate the violent racism still prevalent in U.S. society.
On MLK Day, Jan. 17, Jewish Community Relations Council Director Jason Holtzman hopes to strive toward a beloved community through JCRC’s programming and community partnerships.
“It’s important for us to show up for other communities because we want other communities to show up for us,” Holtzman said. “We want to create a more just society, a more equitable society, that offers fair treatment and opportunities for everyone.”
JCRC will co-sponsor Global Citizens’ 27th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, which has more than 160 in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities on this year’s theme of “Combatting Racism & Building Community.”
The organization, part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, is participating in and inviting community volunteers to a cleanup of the Finley Recreation Center in East Mount Airy. The cleanup will take place from 8 a.m. to noon on Jan. 17, followed by three city-wide youth basketball games at the center.
The clean-up effort affirms recreational centers as places for community gatherings and face-to-face interaction, Holtzman said.
“If you look across the city, over the past year, there’s been such a high rise in crime, such a high rise in gun violence,” Holtzman said. “It’s very important that there are flourishing recreation centers for youth to turn to the community to go to.”
Global Citizens President and King Day of Service Founder and Director Todd Bernstein affirmed the event, along with the additional programs, as “a vehicle to build bridges” that goes beyond just showing up to volunteer.
“We very actively and very intentionally have folks that are very different from one another — have different experiences or [who are] different racially, religiously or geographically — doing projects together for that very reason of finding common ground and building ongoing relationships,” Bernstein said.
The event will have enforced COVID protocols, such as required mask-wearing and social distancing when possible. Sign-up slots for the event are limited.
JCRC also will host a session on Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. with Alliance of Trust called “The Role of Sports in Combatting Racism and Antisemitism: Women in Sports.”
Panelists include Joanne Pasternack, co-founder of Athlete’s Voices and former vice president of philanthropy for the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors; Kendyl Moss, former president of communications for the Atlanta Falcons; and Odessa Jenkins, founder of the Women’s National Football Conference.
The virtual event will be the third installment in Alliance of Trust’s “Role of Sports” panel series, which is intended to illuminate the pervasive discrimination in sports history and the resilience demonstrated by Black and Jewish athletes to overcome that adversity.
“Sports is the great equalizer,” said Alliance of Trust co-founder David Edman. “When you’re on the playing field, and you got teammates, and you’re trying to win, the color of someone’s skin is irrelevant.”
Alliance of Trust began three years ago in response to community members’ desire to revamp the now-defunct Operation Understanding, a partnership between the American Jewish Committee Philadelphia/South Jersey and the Urban League of Greater Philadelphia.
The organization, which kicked off public programming two years ago on MLK Day, aims to build Black-Jewish solidarity in an increasingly divisive political climate.
For more information on Global Citizens’ MLK Day of Service, visit mlkdayofservice.org. To register for Alliance of Trust’s “Role of Sports” panel, visit allianceoftrust.org.