Congregation B’nai Israel and Ebenezer Baptist church held a joint Martin Luther King Day interfaith service on Sunday, January 18 at the church. The service marked a 30-year partnership between the two religious institutions, both in Boca Raton, which join forces twice each year to further the cause of Black-Jewish relations in Palm Beach County and to help feed families in need. The guest speaker at the service was Reverend Henry Willis, the former Pastor of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.
The service was a powerful and uplifting tribute to Dr. King, filled with musical and spiritual offerings from both congregations. Reverend Winston Anderson, Rabbi Robert A. Silvers, the Cantor’s Chantors (CBI’s choir) and B’nai’s Big Beat Band led by Cantor Stephanie Shore all participated in the service.
In November, the two religious institutions fed Thanksgiving dinner to nearly 4,000 families in need. And, in 2014, Congregation B’nai Israel hosted the late Dr. Maya Angelou as part of the 2014 Martin Luther King Day partnership, in what turned out to be one of her last public appearances.
The relationship between these two congregations was initiated in 1984 when Congregation B’nai Israel approached Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, the largest and oldest African-American church in Boca Raton. The early 1980s was a time of reported conflict between Jewish and Black relations in the U.S. and the two congregations wanted to do something locally to quell the negativity. The first Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. interfaith service was held in 1985, the year before this day became a national holiday.