Author and Educator Dr. Tarece Johnson photo curtesy Ruth Abusch-Magder

Black Jewish Prayers for Dr. Martin Luther King, Shabbat and Everyday

Not seeing her own experiences in the traditional Jewish prayer book, this Black Jewish woman wrote her own.

Ahava means love. My love of Judaism and my cultural identity as a Black Jew are at the core of who I am. Shabbat is the highlight of my week. It is a sacred time for me to consciously reflect and heal. It is a time when I take a meditation walk and think about my week, a time when I lay in my bed and peer at the ceiling or close my eyes and think about how HaShem is reflected in my doing and being. It is a time when I sit and think about mitzvahs. It is a time when I am truly being and sharing quality moments with my children. Yet within the tradition, I found something lacking.

When I made the conscious decision to convert to Judaism and as I searched for ways to connect with my new Jewish lifestyle, I needed sources that mirrored my personal choices and experiences. In the traditional liturgy, I did not find Shabbat meditation books that were focused on conversion, social justice, and the Black Jewish woman experience. So I did what Jewish women have done through the generations: I wrote a book of prayers and meditations, called Ahava.

I was, for example, inspired to write about Martin Luther King, Jr., equality, civil rights, and the unique journey and triumphs of Black people. Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished so much because of his passion, vision and leadership.  He was also successful in many of his efforts because of the support of his allies, including the Jewish community. Ahava was written from my viewpoint as a Black Jewish woman who has overcome and has found a home and love in Judaism. But there are also meditations and affirmations that speak to many of the universal Jewish concerns and holidays such as Tashlich, Lag B’Omer, and Rosh Hashanah.

As the American Jewish community becomes more diverse and inclusive, our spiritual life has the potential to change with us. Through the generations, our traditions have spoken to eternal human and Jewish concerns but they have also adapted to the geographic and historic customs and cultures in which Jews have lived. My hope with Ahava is to continue to expand the ways Jews express our connection to God and tradition.

Their voices trembled

as their hearts ached with pain

passionately crying for justice.

Blood leaked from their torn flesh

as they pursued equal rights.

Tears flowed from their weary eyes

from the pain of many struggles

to make America great

for ALL people

The fought.

We fight.

We will continue to peacefully pursue




Human rights.

Shabbat Shalom



May we all put aside our differences

and work together

in love and peace

to make a difference in the world.

May we never forget

the slavery and persecution

of our people.

We share a common story

and a powerful legacy

of strength and perseverance.

Regardless of our differences

and similarities

may we continue to

collaboratively and positively

impact change.

We can ALL make

the world a better place in





Shabbat Shalom


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrate the legacy of

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

and other individuals

and communities

who joined together

to pursue justice.

May we continue to collectively play

an active role in repairing our world

by standing up for truth

serving others

and demonstrating powerful love.

Shabbat Shalom

My favorite morning song
A flowing stream of translucent water

with cascading rhythms bouncing from the still rocks
a slight breeze rustling the lilies

reaching from the floor of the pond

the dancing rainbows

gardens of purples, reds, whites, greens, and blues.

The buzzing of the dragonflies

soothing sounds of the hummingbird

and the flapping of the butterflies’ wings
The drums of hydrangeas and scent of roses

beating to the rhythm of my heart
The fragrant jasmines that calm my spirit

with their aroma.
I witness G-d’s glory in nature

and experience



and Love.
Shabbat Shalom


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