10 Jewish ways to mark Martin Luther King Day in New York this year


(New York Jewish Week) – This weekend, communities around the United States will celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Here in New York City, Jewish communities will honor King by hosting interfaith Shabbat dinners and discussions about social justice, as well as providing community service opportunities and screening films about King’s work and Black and Jewish relations.

Below are several Jewish offerings and events tied to MLK Day, which is observed as a national holiday on Monday, Jan. 15, which would have been King’s 95th birthday had he not been assassinated in 1968 at the height of his civil rights activism.

MLK Shabbat Services 

Temple Emanu-El 

The Upper East Side’s Temple Emanu-El will host their annual MLK Shabbat service virtually this year, in partnership with Reverend Gary V. Simpson and the Concord Baptist Church of Christ. The 6:00 p.m. service will celebrate the life and legacy of King and will  be broadcast on Temple Emanu-El’s website as well as their Facebook and YouTube pages.

Central Synagogue

Join Central Synagogue on Friday night at 6:00 p.m. for a Shabbat service and a conversation with New York Congressman Ritchie Torres, who will talk about his advocacy on behalf of marginalized communities and the legacy of  king. (Torres recently made an appearance at Riverdale’s SAR Academy, where the pro-Israel Democrat received a hero’s welcome.) The service will take place in person and will also be livestreamed.

Temple Shaaray Tefila

The Upper East Side’s Temple Shaaray Tefila will host an MLK Shabbat service featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir accompanied by Shaaray Tefila’s choirs Kol Rinnah, Shir Leadership and Shaaray School of Rock. The 6:15 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat service will also be livestreamed on YouTube. 

Congregation Beth Elohim 

Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim will honor the memory of King during their 6:30 p.m. Shabbat service by discussing ways to come together to “help make this world a more just and compassionate place.” The service will be followed by a Shabbat dinner, where leaders from CBE’s various social justice initiatives will speak about their work and how to get involved. Register for the dinner here, tickets start at $36.  

Volunteer Opportunities

Repair the World 

The Jewish volunteering and community service organization Repair the World is hosting a number of opportunities throughout the weekend, including packaging care kits for migrants, prepping garden beds and painting artistic signs at urban gardens and clothing distribution for newly arrived migrants. The organization will also host “Songs of Sustenance,” a Shabbat event on Saturday at 1:00 p.m., when Rabbi Shir Meira Feit will guide a “spiritually nourishing song circle and niggunim” (wordless spiritual melodies). 

On Sunday night at 7:00 p.m., Repair the World will host an immigrant art justice soiree at the Flatbush Jewish Center. The event includes a roundtable discussion over dinner with “leading local Brooklyn-based artists whose art reflects immigration and Jewish themes.” 

Check out all the opportunities here. Locations are provided upon registration.

Stephen Wise Free Synagogue

The Upper West Side’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue will hold a Shabbat of Service on Saturday at 1:00 p.m., where volunteers will help make sandwiches and pack up meals to feed hungry New Yorkers and resupply NYC community fridges. Sign up to volunteer here.

UJA Federation-New York 

UJA Federation-New York will again host their annual MLK Day of Service on Monday. There are dozens of volunteer opportunities across the city, from park clean-ups and working at food pantries to making care packages for migrants, Holocaust survivors and people living in shelters. Take a look at all the opportunities here.

Met Council

Join the Met Council for their United through Service initiative on Jan. 15 at 12:00 p.m. to pack supplies for vulnerable New Yorkers, including Muslim New Yorkers and college students. Per a press release, the group will meet at the Met Council’s fulfillment center (171 Lexington Ave) to put together “1,000 emergency food relief boxes of Halal products, 500 Halal spice kits, 2,000 literacy kits for families with young children, 1,000 stress-relief kits for CUNY students, 140 food packages for those receiving ongoing and emergency food support from Met Council.” The group will be joined by New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler. 

Film Screenings


Join the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan on Monday at 5:00 p.m. for a screening of “Rustin,” a biopic of Bayard Rustin, an architect of the 1963 March on Washington as well as a trailblazing advocate for gay rights and the plight of Soviet Jewish refuseniks. Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, the 2023 film stars Colman Domingo and Chris Rock. Tickets for the screening start at $5

“Rabbi On the Block” and “Books He Didn’t Burn”

The New York Jewish Film Festival is screening two documentaries in honor of King. “Rabbi on The Block” is about the efforts of Rabbi Tamar Manasseh, a Black rabbi devoted to building solidarity between Black and Jewish communities on Chicago’s South Side. The movie will screen on Monday at 6:30 p.m. and again on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. “The Books He Didn’t Burn” screening on Monday at 1:00 p.m. explores the histories of racism and antisemitism as it delves into the remains of Adolf Hitler’s private library. Both movies are screening at the Walter Reade Theater. Tickets start at $17.