‘Most arrested rabbi in America’ remembers Dr. Martin Luther King

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A rabbi once dubbed "the most arrested rabbi in America” was also one of three rabbis who was closest to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rabbi Israel Dresner was also instrumental in the civil rights movement, and he says that it almost cost him his life. He spoke with News 12 New Jersey Wednesday on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death.

Dresner says that he met Dr. King when the latter was serving time in a Georgia jail. He says that King and other young, black inmates were singing black spiritual songs.

RELATED: Newark man remembers inviting MLK Jr. to school 50 years ago

“[Dr. King] knocked on the wall...and they immediately started singing,” Dresner says.

The rabbi says that he and other clergy fought for civil rights as part of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s. He says that his group often faced arrests, jailing, threats and verbal abuse. He says that he was often in awe of King, who he says spoke eloquently and fought for justice and equality in America, even if it cost him his life.

“He knew long before that he was going to be murdered,” Dresner says. “He was threatened all the time.”

Dresner says that he was in Israel when word came down about Dr. King’s assassination. He says that he feels blessed that King spoke at his Springfield synagogue before his death.

“He only lived 39 years. He’s dead much longer than he was alive,” Dresner says. “He didn’t think of himself being the king, despite his name, his nose was never in the air.”

“We have a long way to go, but thank God for the way we’ve come, and thank God for Dr. King,” he says.

Former President Barack Obama honored Dresner at the White House for the role he played in the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

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