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  • Praying with their Feet

    by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

    Marc Herstand

    “I recently attended an event in Milwaukee sponsored by the Jewish Community Center and the Milwaukee Urban League that featured a dialogue between Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Susannah Heschel, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King developed a unique friendship during the civil rights era. King and Heschel influenced each other in their social justice efforts. Rabbi Heschel walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the famous Selma to Montgomery march and told his family that he found the march deeply moving, that he felt as though he was “praying with his legs”.

    I look at the work of social workers as “praying with their feet” or “praying with their work” by not just talking the talk but walking the walk of the holy commandments of our respective religions. Every day social workers work to touch another human being and help them be the best person they can be on this earth.

    This “praying with their feet” concept also reflects our social justice or “macro” change work. Bernice King discussed that as a result of the Trump presidency we are having conversations that we have refused to engage in up to now, that the President is ”forcing us to deal with ourselves” and also causing us to “…wake …up to who we really are.” She said her father would be really happy to see the increase in youth activism, which is taking place now, particularly on the issue of gun violence.

    In a sense, the many challenges faced by our society today, whether it be gun violence, increased racism and anti-Semitism, sexual harassment, attacks on immigrant communities or welfare recipients, or attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and other safety net programs are a challenge to all of us to “Pray with our Feet” and get more actively involved with social justice efforts. There are many opportunities in our communities and state to follow the inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, confront injustices, and better the world. Let’s challenge ourselves to increase our social justice work and help turn the tide in 2018 to a more just society.