Candlelight vigil illuminates need for empathy, activism

A vigil commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was held on the lawn of the Moorestown Community house on Monday, Jan. 15.

John Khanlian holds a “No Hate” sign as he, Lisa Kulp (center) and Molly Kirkpatrick (right) gathered together to listen to Monday night’s speakers.

On Monday, Jan. 15, the lawn of the Moorestown Community House was illuminated by a soft glow as a crowd gathered for a candlelight vigil honoring Martin Luther King Junior Day. The event was sponsored by the Moorestown Democrats and My Hometown PAC and featured speakers whose messages centered around setting a positive example for the next generation.

Newly-elected state Sen. Troy Singleton from the 7th Legislative District welcomed those in attendance on the especially frigid evening, citing his lost voice from several speaking engagements during the day as a fitting sacrifice.

“Today’s not a day off; it’s a day on — a day of service to our neighbors and our community,” Singleton said.

Singleton said every day is a call to action and a challenge to Americans to try to embody the dream King lived. He said there is “too much derision and division” in the United States, but all Americans are bound together by a shared sense of nationalism. He challenged every person in attendance to start making a difference in their local community by committing to small acts of service.

The senator said he was thrilled to see young children in attendance at Monday night’s vigil.

“We pass along to our children and trust that they will do better than we perhaps have,” Singleton said.

Jonathan Leath, pastor at Destiny Church in Moorestown, said adults have a responsibility to go forth and show children how to love.

“Before the next generation gets the baton, we’ve got to do our job,” Leath said.

Leath said he often tells his congregation that America doesn’t have a racism problem.

On Monday, Jan. 15, the Moorestown Democrats and My Hometown PAC co-sponsored a candlelight vigil commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Residents set the lawn of the Community House aglow as they held candles and listened to a variety of local speakers discuss how to continue MLK’s work today.

“We’ve got a heart condition; our heart needs to change,” Leath said.

Imam Faheem Lea from the Quba School and Islamic Center in Camden echoed the sentiment of the evening. He said, in his eyes, the goal is to have the next generation continue to uplift King’s dream.

Lea said continuing King’s work means taking an active role to demand justice, just as King did during the civil rights movement.

“Make sure we become uncomfortable, that things become inconvenient for us, that we march in each other’s neighborhoods, we lock arms and we let freedom ring,” Lea said.

Rabbi Benjamin David of Adath Emanu-El synagogue in Mt. Laurel said the goal of MLK Day and every day is to bring the spirit of King into each person’s heart and home.

“We remember him with our words, but more importantly we remember him with our actions,” David said.

David encouraged those in attendance to choose empathy and patience over haste and hurt.

“We can help our kids to see the world not as a popularity contest … but rather a place that needs us, our generosity, our grace — now and always.”

Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, founder of nonprofit Nafshenu, said to see a visible change in the world, attendees need to get out and talk to their senators and representatives. He said Americans cannot be cowards in the face of hatred and discrimination.

“May we have that inner courage to make a difference and honor Dr. King’s life,” Sernovitz said.