Local Interfaith Leaders to Retrace Civil Rights History

The civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, in 1965. Credit: Peter Pettus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Submitted photo

Jews and Christians from West Hartford and the Greater Hartford area will unite for the ‘Interfaith Freedom and Justice Ride 2019.’


Nearly 54 years after the historic marches from Selma, AL, to the state capital of Montgomery, a delegation of Jews and Christians from Greater Hartford will retrace the footsteps of civil rights leaders in early January 2019.

Over four days from Jan. 3 to Jan. 6, the Interfaith Freedom and Justice Ride 2019 will visit historic sites such as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery and Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls perished in a KKK bombing in 1963. Participants will walk across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where young civil rights activist John Lewis – today a U.S. Representative for the State of Georgia – was beaten by Alabama State Troopers during a nonviolent march in 1965.

The group will also worship together at local churches and synagogues and participate in group discussions and learning opportunities.

Thirty-seven people are participating in the trip, including clergy and other professionals, lay leaders, elected officials and individual community members. The delegation is spearheaded by the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT), the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s Jewish Community Relations Council, and Faith Congregational Church and Immanuel Congregational Church, both located in Hartford.

“We travel to Alabama seeking greater understanding of our diversity and the unique ways we can find unity,” said Reverend Steven W. Camp, Senior Pastor of Faith Congregational Church. “We travel as Jews and Christians, black and white, gay and straight, younger and more seasoned in our communities. We travel to listen and to learn, to sharpen our resolve to repair the world and to do justice.”

“In order to eliminate the poison of racism, we need to be honest about our history,” added Reverend Kari Nicewander, Senior Minister of Immanuel Congregational Church. “As a white woman and a Christian minister, I have an absolute responsibility to fight racism. This trip is one step in bringing people together to face our past, engage in courageous conversations, build relationships and recommit ourselves to the work of racial justice.”

Michael Bloom, executive director of JFACT, hopes the journey will be a watershed moment. “With so much hate in this state and the entire country, this trip will allow us to soak up the history of the movement and to bring that knowledge back to help make our communities a better place,” he noted.

“Our trip to Alabama is a chance not only to revisit our nation’s troubled history but also to build deeper relationships with other faith communities,” added Bob Blitzer, Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We look forward to sharing what we’ve learned and combating bigotry and prejudice with unity and compassion.”

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