A Call for Love in the Face of Hatred: Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Talk at Muhammad Ali’s Memorial
El maley rachamim, shocheyn ba’meh’romeem. Master of compassion, God of compassion, send your blessings to Muhammad Ali, send your blessings to all who mourn for him, and send your blessings for all the millions and millions of people who mourn for him all over this planet. I come here speaking as a representative of American Jews—and to say that American Jews played an important role in solidarity with African-American struggles in this country and that we today stand in solidarity with the Islamic community in this country and all around the world.
We will not tolerate politicians or anyone else putting down Muslims and blaming Muslims for a few people. We know what it’s like to be demeaned. We know what it’s like to have a few people who act against the highest visions of our tradition to then be identified as the value of the entire tradition. And one of the reasons that we at Tikkun magazine, a magazine of liberal and progressive Jews, but also an interfaith magazine, have called upon the United States to stand up to the part of the Israeli government that is oppressing Palestinians is that we, as Jews, understand that our commitment is to recognize that God has created everyone in God’s image and that everyone is equally precious and that means the Palestinian people as well as all other people on the planet.
I know the people of Louisville have a special relationship to Muhammad Ali, and I had a personal relationship with him in the ’60s when both of us were indicted by the federal government for our various stands against the war in Vietnam. I want to say that although he was cheered on as the heavyweight champion of the world, you know the truth is—and all the honor to him—but heavyweight champions of the world come and go and sports heroes come and go. There was something about Muhammad Ali that was different. At the key moment when he had that recognition, he used it to stand up to an immoral war and say, “No, I won’t go.”
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 1: 11-12