Dear Temple Shalom Family:
I write to share with the congregation a joint Statement of Solidarity issued earlier this week by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Temple Shalom, and scores of other area Jewish organizations. You may read that statement here.
Beyond these words of solidarity, I have spent the past few days writing and rewriting this note. But I have been unable to find the right words to offer this community at this moment. That effort caused me to realize that my words are not what I should be offering. Rather, I write to invite you to join me in spending time with the words of Jews of Color describing their experiences within our Reform movement. Following those words are some from Rabbi Ackerman’s High Holy Day sermons that provide some parallels to this moment, and then I offer a list of actionable steps that each of us can consider on the journey we must travel individually and together in the weeks, months and years ahead.
· Listen to and share episodes of the URJ’s podcast, Wholly Jewish, which features one-on-one interviews with Jews of Color discussing their experiences, insights, and how their identities enrich and create a more vibrant Jewish community.
· Read Chris Harrison’s powerful new essay: “The Black Jews Are Tired”
· Digest JTA’s interviews: “‘Believe us’: Black Jews respond to the George Floyd protests, in their own words.”
· Select past essays from Jews of Color on a variety of topics relevant to Jewish life.
As I have been engaging with these words, I have also turned back to Rabbi Ackerman’s words at the High Holy Days where she reflected that “there are no small acts of anti-Semitism.” Equally if not more so, there are no small acts of racism. Her teachings in that sermon on how to respond to anti-Semitism offer an approach towards our moving closer to the goal of anti-racism.
Rabbi Ackerman also offered us wisdom on how to move forward in the face of the kind of fear many are feeling today for themselves, for friends and family, and for our society:
“Focus on one thing that frightens you.
Picture yourself with your fear on the middle of that very very narrow bridge.
Take a moment to honor that fear. Know that your fear is there to warn and protect you, it is welcome on the bridge with you.
Acknowledge which parts of what you are fearing are very real and which are your own thoughts getting carried away and exacerbating your fear.
Think about why you carry this fear. Is it because something is spiraling out of control? Is it because change is hard? Is it because of a past experience? Is it because of a future loss you are anticipating?
Make a plan. What is one thing you can do [now] to address this fear. Know you may not address the underlying cause of this fear this week, this month, or even this year. But you can build confidence by identifying and acting on tangible things . . . .”
As shared by congregant and college student Abby Landesman on the Temple Facebook page (not sponsored or formally endorsed by Temple Shalom), below are some resources and groups in the general community that offer each of us actionable steps we can individually take now:
Minnesota Freedom Fund: Pays criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who cannot afford to do so.
Campaign Zero: Works towards enactment of legislation to address police violence.
Reclaim the Block: Provides guidance for organizations for education their members, as well as gives information on how to contact your representatives and what to say
Baltimore Action Legal Team: Legal support for the local Movement for Black Lives in Baltimore.
Guide Sent MCPS Employees: This guide was created by John Landesman and distributed to all MCPS employees yesterday as a resource to teachers, parents, and students.
Anti-Racism Packet: Information on taking the first steps to become anti-racist.
Small Actions: Corinne Shutack’s” 75 Things White People Can do for Racial Justice”
MAKE CALLS, EMAILS, AND LETTERS
Contact your local, state, and federal elected officials to let them know that you consider racial justice and anti-racism to be a highest priority.
Beyond these individual steps, we at Temple Shalom must also make plans to take actionable steps to address the failings that exist in our synagogue community and to assist each of us in recognizing our own personal shortcomings. If you are interested in helping guide us on that journey, please let me know at ten.molahselpmet@tnediserP or 703-598-0829. There will be more to come in the weeks ahead as we engage in self-reflection and identify steps we can and must take as a community.
As always, if you are in need of pastoral care or other support during these troubling times, please reach out to our clergy team (ten.molahselpmet@grebnesori) or Susan Zemsky (ten.molahselpmet@yksmezs).
L’Shalom (In peace),