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Synagogue Honors Seven Students with Martin Luther King Jr. Awards

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Jan. 13, 2007 — A crowd packed a synagogue Friday evening to honor seven of the best and brightest students at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas' annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards service.
"This is a very important night for our congregation," Rabbi Arthur F. Starr said in his opening remarks. "We have been doing this for over 30 years."
The 1796 synagogue on Crystal Gade overflowed with proud parents, families and members of the congregation to watch the children receive a citation, a $500 U.S. Savings Bond and a copy of the book Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jewish Community by Rabbi Marc Schneier.
Their schools recommended the students. This year's recipients are Nicole Wheatley of Antilles School; Amber Richards, All Saints School; Kerish Robles, Charlotte Amalie High School; Robelynn Green, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School; Kearil Abraham, Ss. Peter and Paul School; Acef Henry, St. Thomas-St. John Seventh-day Adventist School; and Aldrin Rey, Wesleyan Academy.
In tribute to King, the seven St. Thomas high schools select a student whom the synagogue honors for best exemplifying the Biblical mandate from Deuteronomy 16:20, "Justice, justice shall you pursue." They are chosen because they demonstrate a commitment to social action in the spirit of King through projects and activities that benefit the local community and the world.
Encouraged by Starr, the teachers, principals, guidance counselors and mentors of these students all rose to receive applause. They had nominated the students and, as each award winner came forward, glowing words about each were read. The praises were long and diverse. The students were described as role models because of their leadership, scholarship, community service, commitment to learning, achievement, creativity and social activism. They are members of National Honor Society, student councils, prom committees, choirs, church groups, athletic teams, science and history teams, volunteer organizations and honor societies.
"You are real mensch — real human beings," said a special guest speaker, Rabbi David Wolfman, director of the Northeast Council of the Union of Reform Judaism. Wolfman told all the students he was proud of them and bestowed upon them a blessing and high praise of his own.
In her essay, Robelynn Green wrote, "Too many of us sit and complain and I have decided that I wanted to do as much as I could … I want to be a solution to our problems." Speaking before the service, her mother, Lecia Green, said, "I am so proud of her. I just learned about it four days ago. Normally, she tells me everything, but she kept this a secret. I'm so happy."
Also beaming with pride was Carlos Robles, father of Kerish. "I have three wonderful daughters," he said. "She has always been a leader, very bright and strong. We are all so proud of her. I hope that is a first step in what I hope is a bright future for her. She will be a female who makes her mark."
Starr led the congregation in a group reading of a speech by King, concluding with a legendary passage: "And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
"Those words still give me goosebumps," Starr said.
A reception at Lilienfeld House followed the service.
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