It is no surprise to me that a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, joined the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963 to demand an end to the bigotry that continued to poison America’s conscience. Nor that the June 1964 murder of one Black and two Jewish men in Mississippi — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, respectively — was a bloody reaction to their working partnership to register Black voters. Schwerner’s executioner asked him an unrepeatable question with disgusting expletives, to which he calmly replied, “Sir, I know just how you feel.” Moments later he was shot, his body tossed in the dirt alongside his fellow advocates for decency.
I serve a congregation with virtually no Black membership (all are 100 percent welcome to join us). Although an ally, I do not purport to understand the Black experience in America, let alone in Bakersfield. I am hampered by my opportunity to fully thrive. At UCLA, a less-than-kind Black student once quipped, “If you want to blend in, you can; I can’t.” He was right. And that’s when I started wearing my Kippah, daily ever since.