Two Diverse Cultures came together this last Friday in Bellevue Synagogue Temple B'Nai Torah. To participate in holiday honoring the birthday of Dr Martin Luther King, the temple invited the Psalmist Choir of New Beginnings Fellowship Church along with Reverend Leslie David Braxton (above middle) as guest speaker, the idea of a Gospel Choir in a Jewish Synagogue is nearly unheard of to say the least. At first, it was a regular Shabbat (Sabbath) service, with Rabbi Jim Mirel (above top) making references to Dr King throughout. Deb and I attended in honor of the Yertzheit of my Grandfather Edward Granek. At the end of services, our choir stepped down and along came the Gospel Choir. The leader explained that along with the religious significance of the songs, many songs where had codes among the slaves in those days speaking of ways to gain freedom.
When Dr. Braxton spoke he began in reference to being at his first Jewish service, he quipped about his trouble following in Hebrew. He also joked about different traditions and rituals and praised the incredible voice of Cantor David Serkin-Poole "that is a Cantor who can". He also said the Rabbi Mirel had invited him to speak for 20 minutes. Braxton joked that 20 minutes could barely cover his introductery remarks. Braxton, a community leader with an avid knowledge of history, called Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday his "nervous holiday", the holiday was signed into law about 20 years ago by President Reagan who had vigerously opposed it. He says that although you can say "Merry Christmas" or Happy Chanukka to people of any faith, people just don't quite know how to greet each on the King Holiday. Braxton said that Dr King had spoken out consistantly on Viet Nam and would be vehently opposed to the war in Iraq.