What did it take to unite Sharp­ton, Jews? Trump.

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMENTARY - Dana Mil­bank is a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Post. Email him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump has united us, after all. He brought to­gether the Rev. Al Sharp­ton and the Jews.

This mod­ern-day mir­a­cle was on dis­play Mon­day, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memo­rial on the Mall, 54 years to the day after the great man gave his great­est speech. There, clergy of all va­ri­eties, but mostly rab­bis and black min­is­ters, came to­gether in com­mon cause against the de­spi­ca­ble anti-Semitism and racism Trump has un­leashed, most con­spic­u­ously in Char­lottesville.

Sharp­ton has been a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure in the Jewish com­mu­nity for decades, earn­ing crit­i­cism dur­ing the Crown Heights riot in Brook­lyn in 1991 and when he called a Jewish land­lord in Har­lem a “white in­ter­loper” be­fore a deadly at­tack on the man’s store in 1995.

But that was long ago, and a re­ha­bil­i­tated Sharp­ton, who has pri­vately ex­pressed re­grets to Jewish lead­ers for his past ac­tions, made Jews the cen­ter­piece of his Thou­sand Min­is­ter March for Jus­tice on Mon­day. The civil rights leader, joined by Martin Luther King III, stopped in at a pre­march prayer ses­sion held by the Re­li­gious Ac­tion Cen­ter of Re­form Ju­daism, and ad­dressed the assem­bly of 300 rab­bis, can­tors and lay lead­ers.

Sharp­ton told the Jews that “we could not com­mem­o­rate this day and face the chal­lenges to­day with­out stand­ing to­gether as Dr. King stood 54 years ago.” In­vok­ing those mur­dered in the Free­dom Sum­mer of 1964, he went on: “We should never for­get that it was Good­man, Chaney and Sch­w­erner that died to­gether — two Jews and a black — to give us the right to vote.”

Sharp­ton spoke of Rabbi Abra­ham Joshua Heschel, who marched with King at Selma, and he ad­dressed the more re­cent ill feel­ings. “We have had days good and bad, but from this day for­ward … we’re go­ing to make sure we do our part to keep this fam­ily to­gether,” he said. “When we can see peo­ple in 2017 with torches in their hands, talk­ing about ‘Jews will not re­place us,’ it’s time for us to stop pray­ing to the cheap seats and come to­gether.”

Some of the rab­bis shouted “amen.”

Jewish lead­ers ap­plaud­ing Al Sharp­ton? Who knew? “Mir­a­cles out of a mess,” pro­claimed Re­con­struc­tion­ist Rabbi Malka Bi­nah Klein of Philadel­phia. It’s tragic that it took Trump’s big­otry and the spec­ta­cle of Char­lottesville to re­mind Jews and African-Amer­i­cans of their shared vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. But it played out mov­ingly at Mon­day’s march, which was in plan­ning long be­fore the vi­o­lence in Char­lottesville.

Rather than 1 mil­lion men, Sharp­ton asked for 1,000 min­is­ters, and got some­what more than that among the 3,000 who as­sem­bled. Rab­bis swayed and clapped to hiphop and gospel mu­sic. There were skull­caps of ev­ery color and size, main­line Protes­tant min­is­ters in white col­lars and col­or­ful shawls, black evan­gel­i­cals in bright choir robes, black-robed monks, Bud­dhists in saf­fron, a Sikh in a yel­low tur­ban. There were Black Lives Mat­ter signs and posters with verses of scrip­ture.

As if by way of greet­ing, a white-and-green chop­per from the Ma­rine One fleet buzzed low over the crowd dur­ing the open­ing prayer. Speaker after speaker, re­gard­less of color or creed, de­nounced the per­son who rides in that he­li­copter, and more than one faulted Jerry Fal­well Jr. and other white evan­gel­i­cals for the “sin of si­lence” in the face of the ha­tred Trump has stirred.

A can­tor led the crowd in the He­brew song “Hine Ma Tov” — how good it is for broth­ers to live as one. A black Jewish woman in a tal­lit — a Jewish prayer shawl — spoke, and a rabbi blew a sho­far. A black Catholic nun spoke.

“God’s ma­jes­tic cre­ation,” ob­served Rabbi Jonah Dov Pes­ner, head of the Re­li­gious Ac­tion Cen­ter. From the Nazis in Char­lottesville, Pes­ner said, “we learned that anti-Semitism and white supremacism are in­ter­twined. They are dual threats that call us to act and con­front them to­gether and di­rectly.”

African-Amer­i­cans re­sponded with cries of “Yes!” and “All right!” to the rabbi’s preach­ing.

Jonah Gef­fen, a con­ser­va­tive rabbi from New York, in white robe and tal­lit, liked what he heard from Sharp­ton. He pro­nounced him “a to­tally dif­fer­ent man” from the Sharp­ton of old.

Join­ing Sharp­ton’s march was Jesse Jack­son, of “Hymi­etown” fame. But there is no time to dwell on old slights when neo-Nazis are at the door. “We don’t have a per­son to lose,” King told the Jews at their prayer meet­ing Mon­day morn­ing. “We are broth­ers and sis­ters.”

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