I was born in Georgia, raised in Savannah and for the past 15 years have served as the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Leading from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic pulpit, I am proud to continue his legacy of leadership and friendship between Atlanta’s Black and Jewish communities.
In 1958, The Temple was bombed following Rabbi Jacob Rothschild’s outspoken support for the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King. This twisted act of violence strengthened unintendedly the camaraderie not only between the two men, but also among two communities of faith.
Rabbi Rothschild and Dr. King understood then what I know to be true today: the same sicknesses of bigotry and hatred fuel the threats faced by our communities and we need each other to defeat them.
More than 60 years later, I continue in that tradition of interfaith understanding and respect, working with Atlanta’s Jewish community leaders on joint services and fellowship in recognition of our shared values.
Many are still learning of my background and my interfaith commitment to our neighbors, especially to the Jewish community and to Israel. That’s why I believe it’s critical the community hears directly from me.
I wholeheartedly and unabashedly echo Dr. King’s declaration that “Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable.”
Israel has long been the greatest proponent of democracy in the Middle East and America’s most important partner in the region. We must stand with Israel against the many threats they face, including a nuclear Iran, and as a U.S. senator I will work to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.
That is why I support [former] President [Barack] Obama’s security assistance memorandum of understanding that protects Israel, and I agree with President-elect [Joe] Biden that placing conditions on our assistance would be a mistake.
In the spirit of John Lewis and the civil rights tradition I revere, I recognize the First Amendment right to protest is an American value we must protect. But I strongly oppose the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement and its anti-Semitic underpinnings, including its supporters’ refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
It is true that I am deeply concerned about continued settlement expansion. I believe it is a threat to the prospect of a two- state solution, which I believe is the only path to enduring peace. I will continue to advocate for self-determination for the Palestinian people because I want to see a Palestinian state living side-by-side with a safe and secure Israel.
In my final year of seminary, I wrote my thesis on two of my favorite theologians: Dr. King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an important leader in the minority voice of Christian resistance to Hitler, the Third Reich and “Christian” Aryanism in Germany. Both were pastors who confronted anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry and urged us all towards a more loving, peaceful and just society.
King said, “We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Bonhoeffer averred, “We have for once learned to see the great events of world history […] from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.”
Their moral legacy has informed my activism, the coalitions of conscience that I have strived to create and the work that I do. Without reservation, you can count on me to stand with the Jewish community and Israel in the U.S. Senate.
- Raphael Warnock
- Georgia Run-off
- op ed
- Ebenezer Baptist Church
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- The Temple
- Rabbi Jacob Rothschild
- Civil Rights Movement
- Middle East
- John Lewis
- Barack Obama
- BDS Movement
- Two-State Solution
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer