Our Commitment to Nelson Mandela (z"l)

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It is with immense gratitude that we honor the life of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest risk-takers and freedom fighters this world has ever known. We celebrate Mandela’s legacy with a re-commitment to fight for justice from a place of love, connection, and indefatigable hope.

On December 5th, the day of Mandela’s passing, we were blessed with the opportunity to honor his legacy at the 17th Annual Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Awards -- in the very sanctuary in which JFREJ honored him 23 years ago as our inaugural event during his 1990 trip to New York. What a blessing it was to celebrate his life and legacy together as a community, at the same time we honored the leaders of today who are building the world that Mandela was fighting for. Click here for Rinku Sen's dedication to Nelson Mandela, from the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Awards.

Here is an excerpt about the 1990 event from JFREJ founders Marilyn Neimark and Donna Nevel:

Twenty-three years ago, Mandela, newly released from prison, made a thrilling visit to New York.  His visit coincided with the moment we were co-founding JFREJ. As 750,000 New Yorkers of all sorts poured into the streets to cheer this courageous hero, we were disgusted that the Jewish establishment announced that they were withholding their welcome of him to our city because of his criticism of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. We decided that our inaugural event should be a symbolic welcome of Mandela from the substantial wing of the Jewish community that was happy and grateful to embrace him.

More than 1,000 people from across the city attended the Shabbat service and celebration of his achievement at B’nai Jeshurun. Among the speakers:  Harry Belafonte, Henry Schwarzschild, Grace Paley, and the ANC representative, Susan Mnumzama, with a closing song by Bernice Johnson Reagon. The service was led by Rabbis Marshall Meyer, Rolando Matalon, and Balfour Brickner.

We raised $30,000 to present to the ANC that evening, along with a statement applauding Mandela “as a moral voice for peace, justice, and self-determination for all peoples."

Click here for Alissa Solomon's New York Times Op-Ed from that visit.

May we be blessed to continue Mendela’s work for the liberation of all peoples.

With love,

Executive Director
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice