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The Journey for Justice

Before you keep reading, please take a moment to look at the picture. I’m the one marching with the Torah, Bruce Cohen is holding the sign and Brian Cohn was the one who had the camera (hence left out of the picture). That day of September 3, 2015 in North Carolina was one of the most inspirational events of our lives. We participated in The Journey for Justice, a march of 1,000 miles from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. aimed at calling attention to economic inequality, the urgent need for criminal justice reform, the atrocious rollback of voting rights and the burning need for education reform. I spoke about some of these critical issues on Yom Kippur. Here I want to draw your attention to the two people in the front of the picture who embody the essence of love, altruism and all that is so beautiful in our country.

As Americans, when we think about the historical connotation of The Middle Passage, pride is not the first emotion welling up within our hearts. The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of Africans were shipped to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage voyage is estimated at two million.

But Middle Passage is also the name of the man on the left side of the picture holding the American flag, with whom we had the honor to march. While Bruce, Brian and I marched for only one day carrying a Torah (we took turns holding it), Middle Passage marched 920 miles and carried the American flag since the march began in Selma. Tragically, like Moses, he didn’t make it to the Promised Land. Three days before the end he collapsed along the road in Virginia and died. The lady who was marching along side of him as together they set the pace (3.5 mile per hour) is Ruth Zalph, an 85 year old Jewish activist who shows up in places around the world to promote peace and justice.

I particularly love the image of the Torah side by side with the Star-Spangled Banner. Our Founding Fathers struggled to establish a nation based on the eternal biblical principals of freedom, equality and pursuit of justice. It didn’t happen over night. It has been a long journey with many bumps in the road. The physical Journey for Justice ended on September 15, but the metaphorical one continues. It is not going to be easy, but as long as the Torah and the Flag serve as our road guide and mark our destination - I am certain that we will get there.


Rabbi Alon Levkovitz

Fri, December 4 2020 18 Kislev 5781