A conservative African-American minister will address students at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston at a Jan. 14 commemoration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
The talk by the Rev. Michel Faulkner — a former member of the New York Jets football team who plans to run as a Republican in New York’s 2017 mayoral race — marks the first time that the Orthodox day school has scheduled a King birthday celebration. The holiday, which falls on the third Monday in January, has previously coincided with the traditional January yeshiva vacation.
Rabbi Eliezer Rubin, Kushner’s head of school, called it a “gold mine” to be able to offer an assembly in advance of the Jan. 18 holiday. Marking the occasion is a “very important aspect of our educational mission,” he said, pointing out that the day and King’s legacy have always been addressed in the classroom.
Faulkner, founding pastor of New Horizons Church in Harlem, was a defensive lineman for the Jets in 1981-82. A former assistant to the Rev. Jerry Falwell at Liberty College, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010 against Harlem’s Charles Rangel, and served on several task forces when Rudolph Giuliani was mayor.
In September, he announced his candidacy for mayor in 2017. That same month, he spoke to the Greater Miami Jewish federation about his love for Israel, his interfaith work, and his desire to bring reform to New York City politics.
His alliances with Jewish organizations spring from his religious beliefs. At a 2010 pro-Israel (and anti-Obama) rally he attended in New York City, the Israel National News quoted him as saying, “I remind those in the Obama administration that those who bless the Jewish people will be blessed and those who curse the Jewish people will be cursed.”
He can often be found alongside Jewish leaders at pro-Israel rallies — he was particularly engaged in demonstrations for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kept captive by Hamas, often joining organizations like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
At Kushner, he will address “Is the American Dream Alive?,” offering an analysis and a challenge to the students.