Tony Hill Award 2019

Rabbi Paula Marcus from Temple Beth El in Aptos was a recipient of the 2019 Tony Hill Award, a recognition of her work for social and economic justice, as part of UC Santa Cruz's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation.  She donated the money from the award to COPA.  Here are her acceptance remarks...

I want to thank so many people for this great honor.  Those of you who nominated me and wrote letters of support, my Temple Beth El family.  And all of you who have been partners in stirring up our shared public life in this amazing community.  My family, including my amazingly supportive husband, my loving son, my loyal brother and his wonderful partner who are here this evening.

Tonight, we are honoring the memory of two men who stood up and spoke out whenever they saw injustice, insensitivity, inequality.  Two men with the vision to keep going, even when others might have lost hope.  Two peaceful warriors.  Both of these men faced adversity.  And both of them taught that love, not hate, is the way forward.  Do we really know how remarkable this is?  Because honestly, these days I’m finding it hard. Hard to stay in the struggle and not become enraged at what we are seeing. 

It doesn’t help when my inbox is filled with political emails such as:

“Did you hear what Mitch McConnel just said?”

“Demand Governor Resign Over Blackface Photo”

“Condemn Rep. Steve King for White Supremacist Remarks”

Or “they want to be able to LYNCH LGBTQ people”

I know that these messages are sent by organizations that are working to mobilize us.  They stir up our outrage. And, we can’t just get angry.  Just like Tony Hill and Dr. King, we organize.  We reach out to the people we work with and we say, what are we gonna do about this?  We sit together, in sanctuaries, at cafes, sometimes in jail cells,  and we share our stories our dreams and our plans to create change. 

And we remember the legacies of hope and love and courage we hold so dear.

This is one reason I chose COPA as the recipient of the $500.00 gift.  I have learned so much about effective strategy, the importance of organizing across differences of faith, race, and economic class.  And the preciousness of our stories, our understanding of why we need to work together. The patience it takes to stay in, especially when we don’t always agree about everything.

Last year, my husband and I traveled in Vietnam.  Talk about a humbling experience, we were received by open hearted, generous people.  I like to say it would have been easier if we’d gone when Obama was president, at least we could have said we learned something from that tragic war. 

We spent some time at the Temple where the Vietnamese, Buddhist spiritual leader and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, became a monk.  We walked around the beautiful lake, sat in the meditation hall and spoke with some of the monks and nuns.  This Temple is where Thich Nhat Hanh is now living his last days or weeks before he dies.  This man, who protested against the war in Vietnam and taught that “Peace is in Every Step”.  As we honor and remember Tony Hill and Dr King this evening, I want to close with these words from Thich Nhat Hanh.

“If you see someone who is trying to shoot, to destroy, you have to do your best in order to prevent him or her to do so. You must. But you must do it out of your compassion, of your willingness to protect, and not out of anger. That is the key."

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