Prinz, Persecution, and the Pursuit of Justice

rising-voices-sidebarI’ve been working at the Jewish Women’s Archive since the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2011. In my almost-three years here, I have learned one thing above all else: in order to understand ourselves, to know our past, and to build our future, we must tell our stories. And this past week has been one of my most favorite weeks of story telling as every blog, news agency, and Facebook user has shared anecdotes, historical photos, and reflections of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Last week I highlighted some little-known historical facts about the March, including the involvement of Jews in the event. Since then, I have seen Rabbi Joachim Prinz’s name and words all over the Internet as Jews claim him as our own and passionately take up the legacy of his work for civil rights and social justice.

Of the thousands of Jews who were present at the March, only one gave a speech. In his speech, Rabbi Prinz invoked the narrative of Jewish persecution—one that was close to his experience as a refugee from Eastern Europe—and drew from it a sense of solidarity with oppressed blacks in the United States, saying:


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