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Knowing your neighbor and MLK

01/15/2020 11:48:48 AM


Cantor Leah Shafritz

As we begin reading Exodus this week, we close the chapter of Joseph, who proved an invaluable member of the Pharaoh's court, so much so that he and his family are granted the best land and livestock in the region while Egypt is struck by famine. This narrative is contrasted starkly by the beginning verses of Exodus, which state that "a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph" (Ex. 1:8).
We know from our annual retelling of the Exodus story at Passover that this king, intimidated by the number of Israelites in the land of Egypt, subsequently introduces measures to suppress the growing numbers and takes control over the existing population by forcing them into slave labor. Verse eight, above, is a significant detail in setting up the story of the Exodus from Egypt, and is an important reminder that sometimes what we do not know can often scare us the most.
The theme of this year's Newton community celebration of Martin Luther King Jr's life and work is "Know Your Neighbor." For the past two Sundays, a volunteer choir made up of members of our own Shir Shalom choir, Newton Family Singers and many other members of the wider Newton community, have come together to rehearse for the event this weekend at First Baptist Church. People who ordinarily might never have met have had the opportunity to sit together and sing together, getting to know others within the community beyond their smaller circles.
Knowing one another strengthens us all. When we get to know someone, assumptions or judgments about them are not as easy to jump into. Perhaps if Pharaoh's fear of an unknown people turned into curiosity and even partnership, as it did in the Joseph narrative, our people's story could be quite different. The story we do have, though, is a reminder to us of what can happen, at least on a grand scale, when we don't get to know those around us who may be different from who we are. I hope you will join us this Monday morning at 9:30 at First Baptist Church of Newton, 848 Beacon St., to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and to get to know some of your neighbors.

Wed, August 12 2020 22 Av 5780