Monday’s 57th Presidential Inauguration officially sent off Barack Obama into a second term as America’s 44th President and the country’s first African American commander-in-chief. After being formally sworn in Sunday at the White House, Obama gave his inaugural address to about one million people Monday, according to a recent White House estimate. This day also coincided with Martin Luther King Day.
The birthstone for April is a diamond. In ancient Greek, the meaning of diamond is “unbreakable.” As the month begins, we look to the state of civil rights and intergroup relations in this city and are reminded that, while our bonds are strong, the diamond days of April hold many imperfections.
Oddly, or perhaps not for a product of the Orthodox yeshiva world, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., profoundly shaped my religious life. His life story, with all its achievements, failures, complexities and wonders, is, like the lives of all spiritual giants, its own text and source of teaching.
The Persian community's first major fundraiser for Israel this year took place at the home of Dr. Ata and Sima Kashani in Encino on Jan. 14. The Persian Group Council of Hadassah Southern California organized the event, which raised $50,000 to go toward scholarships for Hadassah college students in Israel.
Back in 1990, while working as an assistant at a film production company, my daily mail chores acquainted me with the postal worker across the street. One Friday, as we said our goodbyes, I said, "See you Monday," when she corrected me: Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
I didn't know if my office would be closed, I said.
Her eyes flashed as she said she would take the holiday even if it weren't given to her, because "it's our holiday."
In that flash, I saw the different worlds we inhabited in the same country, my skin color having allowed me to forget it. I knew our meant black. I wanted to tell her it was my holiday, too, but I didn't know if it was. Back at the office, I learned that it was an optional holiday -- whoever wanted to take the day off could, but the office would be open. I told my boss that I would take the holiday. I later learned from a co-worker that the boss was annoyed with me, that in her opinion "the only person who should have the day off is the receptionist -- the only black employee."