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Yeshiva University and Samuel Belkin Memorialize Martin Luther King, April 1968

Yeshiva University notice in the New York Times, April 10, 1968

Yeshiva University published this announcement in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the New York Times on April 10, 1968, six days after his tragic assassination on April 4, 1968, and a day after his funeral on April 9.

In addition to the notice in the Times, Yeshiva University had issued a press release on April 5, 1968, the day following King’s assassination.  The press release quoted statements by Dr. Samuel Belkin, president of Yeshiva University, on Dr. Martin Luther King.  Belkin characterized King’s death “as a grievous loss to all men of good will and moral purpose.” … “He was more than a leader of a specific contemporary cause. He represented the dream of America that someday his children, and all children, will be judged solely on the basis of ability and character. He represented, too, the moral principles by which God wishes all of us to live. His life exalted us and his death diminishes us."  Belkin noted that Dr. King “sought peace and justice for all people, peacefully and justly.”

Indeed, less than two years earlier, on December 11, 1966, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had addressed 50,000 people in thirty-two states at demonstrations for Soviet Jewry all across the United States via a national telephone hook-up. King had been invited to speak by Rabbi Dr. Israel Miller, Chair of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, and later Senior Vice-President of Yeshiva University.  King proclaimed: “The denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to the affirmation of human rights everywhere,” and further decreed that “Jewish history and culture are a part of everyone’s heritage, whether he be Jewish, Christian or Moslem.”

On April 8, 1968, Belkin urged that on April 9, the day of King’s funeral, “all University functions and studies be held and dedicated to the memory of the saintly Dr. Martin Luther King who sacrificed his life to advance the ideal of justice for all, regardless of race, creed and nationality.” Belkin stated that “in the spirit of Jewish tradition, the greatest way of paying tribute to the dead is to dedicate our intellectual and moral capacities to the memory of a sainted person.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. He would have entered his 90th year in 2019. Today his birthday is an American federal holiday, and the King Holiday and Service Act encourages Americans to transform the day into a day of service, a new tradition in the spirit of Dr. Belkin’s prescription for honoring Dr. King in 1968.

Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger