The way Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman sees it, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “died because of economic injustice. Because he was a black man trying to create the reality of civil rights. Because he upset the apple cart. Because the status quo was endangered. Because he spoke the truth to power.”
Sirkman, Larchmont Temple’s senior rabbi, was one several community members who explored the question of how close we are to the social justice envisioned by King at a meeting Tuesday of the Local Summit.
Sirkman said King’s message of economic injustice should still resonate today. “If our friends are having trouble looking for work, we’ve got to help them with job fairs and connections,” he said. “Maybe we’ll galvanize this wonderful community to help one another.” When asked whether he’d be willing to participate in a community-based jobs program, Sirkman replied, “I’ll definitely be part of it.”
King’s murder had a major impact on Mamaroneck High School counselor Keith Yizer, a lifelong Mamaroneck resident who traces his roots to slavery. Although life growing up in Mamaroneck was “very good, very free,” Yizer’s bigger concept of the world changed with King’s assassination — an event that ultimately fueled his community activism.
Yizer said he believes immigration is among today’s biggest issues. “Unless you fell from Mars, you too are an immigrant,” he said. Education is key to new immigrants’ success, he said.
Elizabeth Saenger, a teacher and activist, said that racism is more subtle today but still exists. “Racism is encoded. Privilege is encoded,” she said. In an encoded world, people do things like refer to neighborhoods as “nice” and “bad” when what they really are referring to is “white” versus “black,” she said.
The Local Summit, which hosted the meeting, is an informal community council that tries to make the community a better place to live for everyone. Its regular monthly meetings are held at 7:45 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month at the Nautilus Diner on the Post Rd. in Mamaroneck.
— Article and photos submitted by Harold Wolfson