LOS ANGELES, Jan. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a spellbinding sermon to a packed Friday evening service at Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH). He was introduced by then-Rabbi Max Nussbaum as "the man who has given the history of our generation a forward thrust, a sense of direction, an encounter with destiny." On Sunday, January 18, 2015, beginning at 7:00 PM, the 50th anniversary of this historic sermon will be celebrated at TIOH, 7300 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90046 with an unforgettable musical evening uniting more than 130 performers, musicians, choirs, clergy and others of all faiths, ethnicities, ages and backgrounds. The show, which will resurrect part of King's original sermon in a musical context, is produced and arranged by composer Michael Skloff, who wrote and composed the theme song for the TV shows Friends, Dream On, and many others. TIOH congregants who were present at King's sermon in 1965 will also attend. PBS talk show host and author Tavis Smiley will be the keynote speaker. The celebration continues on Monday morning, January 19, 2015, from 9:00 AM - Noon at Big Sunday, 6111 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038, with hundreds volunteering during the 3rd Annual MLK Day Clothes Drive and Community Breakfast. Big Sunday, whose flagpole event is the largest community service festival in the USA, has its roots at TIOH. Since its founding by a group of entertainment luminaries in 1926, TIOH maintains its close ties to Hollywood and its dedication to social justice, through both thought and deed.
Five years before MLK's sermon, TIOH hosted Harry Belafonte, whose forty minute address was bolder and more militant than King's. Belafonte called President Eisenhower a "coward" for not standing up for civil rights, and he assailed the United States for its sins. Nussbaum followed-up Belafonte's speech, calling segregation a "black spot" on the history of the country. The most daring statement made by TIOH during this period was the marriage of congregant and actor Sammy Davis Jr. to Swedish actress May Britt in 1960. At that time, the very act of marrying a black man and a white woman was illegal in the majority of the states. TIOH was subsequently bombarded with hundreds of life-threatening phone calls and letters. In October 1963, Reverend Maurice Dawkins, a major Southern California civil rights leader, organized a Friday evening visit to TIOH by Reverend John Cross of the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which was bombed in September of that year. The visitors inspired the largest Sabbath Eve collection at TIOH up until that time, which was donated for church re-building efforts.
Since its founding by a group of entertainment luminaries in 1926, Temple Israel of Hollywood (www.tioh.org) has never strayed from its Hollywood roots or its connections to Reform Jewish traditions and values. Today, TIOH remains dedicated to worship, community, Jewish life, social justice, and to Israel in a contemporary context. TIOH includes three schools serving over 700 students, from toddlers to teens, and a robust young adult program. TIOH was founded upon a commitment to social justice, through both thought and action. Leading Jewish thinkers, including Rabbis Mordechai Kaplan, Leo Baeck and Stephen S. Wise, gave sermons here about important social issues. In 1965, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke movingly from the Temple's pulpit about segregation, poverty, freedom, and human dignity. TIOH congregants annually serve a joyful Christmas dinner to 1,500 homeless and hungry Angelenos; prepare monthly lunches for individuals living with HIV/AIDS; gather food and other relief supplies for distribution locally and globally; organize for disaster relief; and continuously address contemporary social and humanitarian issues through leadership and action. In 1999, TIOH launched Mitzvah Day which has grown into "Big Sunday Weekend" the flagpole event of "Big Sunday," an independent, non-denominational year-round non-profit organization dedicated to building community via community service. TIOH remains among its strongest supporters.
About Big Sunday:
Big Sunday (www.bigsunday.org) established in 1999, is the premiere resource in California for volunteering year-round. Community service projects provided to the public by Big Sunday meet the passion, talent, skill and age of all willing volunteers. Big Sunday's mission is to build community through community service. The organization believes that everyone - regardless of age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status or circumstance -- has some way that they can help somebody else. Big Sunday Weekend, the organization's principal event, is the largest community service festival in the USA and attracts thousands of volunteers from all over California and other states. In 2014, Big Sunday planned, produced or promoted nearly 1800 events, engaging more than 50,000 participants of all ages and backgrounds in more than 100 communities throughout California, as well as 7 others states. Big Sunday now offers ways to help 52 weeks a year. Big Sunday has received many honors and awards and incorporated as an independent 501c3 organization in 2008. The inaugural Big Sunday Australia was completed in Adelaide, Australia in 2014.
Rachel Schwartz/PR AdvantEDGE Inc.
SOURCE Temple Israel of Hollywood