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Tag : racism

The Lilith Blog

July 28, 2020 by

Why We’re Doing Public Teshuvah to Fight White Supremacy

Photo by Hannah Roodman

Photo by Hannah Roodman

Heading to Grand Army Plaza at 7:20 pm. Seeing a group start to gather, forming a circle. Picking up the protest sign that speaks to me from the middle of the circle. Finding a place in the circle to stand and hold up the sign. Stepping into the center to share what aspect of systemic racism I am mourning that day. Or, stepping into the circle to confess how I myself have participated in and perpetuated racism and anti-Blackness. Actively listening. Turning my body East at 8:00 pm. Blowing the shofar for one long breath. Hearing those around me cry out to the Heavens. Standing silently for a moment. Turning back to face the circle. Stepping into the circle again, this time to share a specific way that I will be actively anti-racist moving forward —my commitment to this community. Actively listening. Putting the protest sign back in the middle of the circle. Saying hello to friends and community members. Returning home. 

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The Lilith Blog

June 11, 2020 by

To Save the Planet and Ourselves, Root Down to Love

There are five things at the forefront of my mind these days; the national struggle against racist violence, the climate crisis, the coronavirus, death, family, but underlying it all… love. 

A phrase that’s always bothered me is, “You have to love yourself before someone else can love you.” At its core, it’s a true statement. Self-love is the foundation from which all healthy and fulfilling love grows.

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The Lilith Blog

June 4, 2020 by

Black Lives Matter: Read, Learn, and Act

In the wake of this most recent horrific moment of racist violence and white supremacy, the Lilith staff would like to share the articles we’ve been reading and rereading–the organizations we’ve been following, and resources we’ve been turning to.  

We also want to hear from you: what have you been reading, asking, wrestling with, learning from, supporting? Because we’re in this with you- committing to listen, deepen our anti-racism learning & act in solidarity with Black communities, Jews of Color, Indigenous people, & communities of color for racial equity and a just world. 

Read

Watch

Donate

There are so many organizations doing incredible racial justice work. We wanted to highlight the following organizations that are run for and by women of color.

  • Sister Song is a Southern-based organization with a purpose to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities.
  • The Loveland Foundation is an organization that provides financial assistance to Black women and girls seeking mental health support.
  • #FreeBlackMamas is an annual campaign by National Bail Out seeking to raise awareness about the human and financial costs of money bail and emphasize its impact on Black mothers and caregivers.

Learn

Act

  • #JusticeforFloyd: Demand the officers who killed George Floyd are charged with murder is a petition demanding the along with Derek Chauvin, the other three officers be arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. 
  • NAACP: We Are Done Dying is a petition with 4 main demands. These are to arrest the remaining 3 officers involved in George Floyd’s murder, demand appointment of an independent special processor to lead the government’s full and impartial investigation of the murder of George Floyd, demand reinstitution by the Department of Justice of consent decrees on police departments and municipal governments across this country that have demonstrated patterns of racism towards and mistreatment of people of color, and demand for sweeping police reform, including federal legislation mandating a zero-tolerance approach in penalizing and/or prosecuting police officers who kill unarmed, non-violent, and non-resisting individuals in an arrest.
  • Black Lives Matter: #DefundThe Police is a petition that calls for the end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken. They call for a national defunding of police and investment in Black communities.

 

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The Lilith Blog

March 15, 2020 by

A Jewish Journey to Montgomery

Between 1877 and 1950, approximately 4400 African American women and men were lynched in the United States. Billie Holiday sang of them, “strange fruit hanging from the sycamore tree,” in Abel Meeropol’s iconic 1939 song, but it was not until 2018 that civil rights activist and attorney Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative raised enough money to open the commemorative Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Both sites are intended to acknowledge the racism at the heart of America’s story and address the many ways that the heritage of bigotry continues to fester and poison the body politic.

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The Lilith Blog

March 4, 2020 by

The New Organization Uniting Allies to Combat Racism

When the National Anti-Racism Alliance (NARA) began to come together in Spring 2019, its purpose was explicit: “a nonviolent community of people who think racism is out of control in this country and who are publicly willing to identify themselves as anti-racist fighters.”

NARA’s founder, Mark Naison—an African American Studies and History professor at Fordham University—welcomed any-and-all but emphasized that “the NARA label is particularly important for anti-racist whites to display, as it lets our friends of color know that they can count on us in a crisis to stand with them.”

Rhode Island activist Nomi Hurwitz is one of NARA’s moderators, facilitating a largely-online discussion—on Facebook—between members who share information, debate strategy and tactics, and address the many ways that racial bias poisons our lives.

She and Eleanor J. Bader spoke by phone in mid-February.

Eleanor J. Bader: What drew you to NARA?

Nomi Hurwitz: I have known Mark Naison for a number of years. I met him through friends on Facebook and have benefited from reading his work. When I heard that he had started NARA, I wanted to join.

I’ve been fighting against racism for a long time. I started at 18. Now, more than 30 years later, I want to learn more about how to undo it, how to confront it when I see someone being harmed or hear a derogatory comment.

In Providence, where I live, I’ve heard white people say things that are disrespectful to African American or Latinx people, things like ‘They only have their positions because of affirmative action.’ I’ve heard white people blame their lack of success—that they can’t get published, for example—on the fact that they’re white. These comments are racist. And they can be lethal. Twenty years ago, Providence off-duty police officer, Cornell Young, Jr., an African American, was shot and killed by two white officers who did not recognize him in plainclothes when he attempted to intervene and stop a crime that was then in progress.

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The Lilith Blog

December 31, 2019 by

Can We Cut Off Antisemitism at its Roots?

526493DB-2386-4875-B9FD-82A2A5AD1A07On the antisemitic attack in Monsey:

Last night I had a dream that it was finally time to harvest the root vegetables. In the dream, they had been left too long in the ground, and they were starting to rot.

I woke up, dressed, and went outside to harvest. I wasn’t too late. The first radish, round and bright and pink, allayed my fears. I spent the morning digging up the roots, rinsing them clean, putting them into containers to store. Then I checked the news.

Hasidic Jews in New York attacked with a machete inside their Rabbi’s home on Chanukah. The ninth antisemitic attack in New York during this week. Visibly Jewish people bearing the violent brunt of the story told about all Jews: that we are the ultimate source of people’s suffering. And that by harming us, killing us, that suffering will be alleviated.

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The Lilith Blog

March 5, 2019 by

Don’t Assume Anything About That Kid on the Bus

I see where the mistake came from. Unfortunately, there just aren’t that many Jews of color in our community. But still: don’t assume that that the black boy on the Jewish day school bus is the bus driver’s kid.

Yeah. That happened. I don’t think I need to tell you how it made the kid’s mom feel.  I don’t think I need to tell you what that says about our school community’s assumptions, commitment to inclusivity, and default gatekeeping. But to be crystal clear: it was devastating. 

There’s some context, to be fair. Our bus had been a mess the first couple of weeks of the school year. The driver was late (hours late), partly, it emerged, because of childcare challenges. (Insert full rant about the need for much better and more comprehensive and more affordable childcare in the US.) So yes— there was a day when the driver’s kids, an older girl and an infant boy, were on the bus. Once. Neither of them was five years old.  Neither had been riding the bus every day since the beginning of the year.

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The Lilith Blog

January 17, 2019 by

A Challenge to White Jews on MLK Day

Recently, a fellow Jew of Color (JOC) posted on social media that she was feeling apprehensive about attending upcoming Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in her Jewish community. Several other JOCs and parents of multiracial Jewish children shared her reaction, saying that MLK Day Shabbats often read as haphazardly organized, superficial efforts to celebrate diversity.

On a different space on social media in response to the Jewish Women of Color Women’s March Sign-On Letter, I witnessed a white Jew lamenting that Jews don’t get enough credit for the work they did during the Civil Rights movement. This reflects the same problem. All too often, the Jewish community focuses on the work of the late 1960s while not recognizing the need for or engaging with antiracist work in the present day. Thankfully, another white Jew in the social media group helped the commenter understand the ways that her original comment falls short.

None of this is a surprise to me: In my experience as a Jewish diversity consultant, I encounter defensiveness and unwillingness to confront the ways that white Jews do benefit from and thus perpetuate white supremacy. Resist the urge to say “not me” as you read this. Instead, answer yes or no to the following statements:

  • I have been watched or followed at a department store or boutique.
  • I have been asked, “What are you?”
  • When pulled over or in the presence of police I have feared for my life.
  • When entering my shul security has searched my bag and my person.
  • I have been asked how I am Jewish.
  • I have been mistaken for a service worker or the help.
  • I’m usually the only person of my race when I am in synagogue.
  • When requesting an aliyah, I’m asked how I converted.

If these questions are foreign to you, you benefit from white privilege. If you have asked some of these questions yourself (like “how are you Jewish?”), you have perpetuated white supremacy. Our nation’s institutions and systems are based on the idea that whiteness is the norm, the ideal, and anything other than whiteness is considered wrong, lesser than, other. And Jewish institutions are no exception. 

Like every Jewish person across the world I was heartbroken, angry, and frankly scared after the Tree of Life shooting last year. And like a lot of Jews of Color I know, I cringe and worry for the lives of my fellow JOCs trying to enter police-guarded places of worship. This tug is at the center of what it is to be a Jewish person of color living in America today.

When you question the validity of someone’s Judaism (by asking if they understand the order of service, or if they converted, or asking their “story”), you are perpetuating white supremacy.

When you have the urge to talk about Nazis and white supremacists as oppressors, but do not acknowledge other systems of oppression, of you are perpetuating white supremacy.

When you dismiss the words and concerns and perspectives of People of Color (POCs) and Jews of Color, you are perpetuating white supremacy.

When you say, “But not me!” or “I have a lot of friends who are POCs!” you are perpetuating white supremacy.

When you herald Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King for one Shabbat each year, yet JOCs are not in positions of leadership, members of your organization’s board, or helping to make decisions in your organization; when you don’t do the work of making your Jewish spaces welcoming to JOCs and multiracial Jewish families; when you lean on JOCs to teach you instead of doing the work yourself; when you invite JOCs to share their stories and don’t pay them for the emotional labor of telling of those stories; when you exoticize Jewish communities of color in other countries without acknowledging the long-standing Jewish communities of color here, you are perpetuating white supremacy.

When you feel safer with a police officer outside your place of worship without acknowledging how the presence of a police officer feels to a JOC, you are perpetuating white supremacy.

I’ve written an article like this every year because the message needs to be heard every year. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. We, as a Jewish community do the legacy of Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel a disservice by looking to the past instead of addressing what is occuring in the present. We do a disservice to our communities by talking about tikkun olam instead of living it. Change does not need to be slow. It does not need to take time. It does not need to be a process. It’s actually quite easy. Here are some steps.

  1. Take a look at your organization. Who is in key leadership positions? Is there a Jew of Color? Or two? Or three? If not, ask yourself why not, and change that. Hire JOCs in positions of power. Actively recruit JOCs. Invest the time to work with Jewish leaders of color to recruit, retain and hire more Jews of Color.

  2. Next, take a look at your Board. Do you have JOCs represented there?

  3. Review your synagogue’s welcoming policies. Everyone should be treated equally when coming into shul. No one should feel singled out. This means that if you have a security guard, that security guard should be checking everyone’s bags and person, even if they come every single week.

  4. Remove words like “welcoming” “inclusive” and “diverse” from your synagogue’s welcoming page if your space isn’t truly welcoming, inclusive, and diverse. Don’t use stock photos or older photos of Jews of Color, especially if those folks are no longer in your community..

If these steps feel too hard to implement in your Jewish organization, you have to acknowledge that diversity and inclusion are not your priority and move on. If the idea of moving on and doing nothing doesn’t sit right with you either, then take the advice from our fathers and remember that “you are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” King’s dream has not been realized. His work is not complete. The movement did not end in the 60’s. It continues today. We have an obligation to work towards justice and equality. That work begins with the individual. Listen and amplify the voices of Jews of Color, pay Jews of Color for their work, hire Jews of Color to work in your organizations and invite us to sit on your Boards.

We are not the stranger the Torah reminds us to welcome. We are your brothers and sisters.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.

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The Lilith Blog

September 6, 2018 by

My High Holiday Prayer: Stop Exploiting Jews of Color

About three months ago I invited over 20 Jews into my home for a havurah we call the Tacoma Shabbat Experiment. After my co-organizers and I finished leading Kabbalat Shabbat and the important bits of Ma’ariv, we sat down to a dinner that I’d prepared. I only planned for 20 people, and we had almost 30, but we found more plates, pulled up another table and folks sat on a hodgepodge of various lawn chairs and stools. Wine flowed, we tended to a pre-lit bonfire and folks meandered around the backyard my wife and I share with neighbors.

shabbat tableI was saying goodbye to one woman when a man I didn’t know approached me and asked what my connection to Judaism was. Slightly tipsy and really pissed off, I quickly reminded him that his question was hugely problematic. He leaned in to ask about Ethiopian Jews and Ugandan Jews, hoping for some validation. Instead of realizing his misstep he continued to ask my connection to Judaism, claiming to not understand my objection to his line of questioning. Thankfully, a white Jewish woman stepped in and I turned my back to him to continue to say goodbye to a friend.

This was not the first time a white Jew has questioned the authenticity of my Judaism based on the color of my skin. It was, however, the first time a white Jew had done this to me in my own home.

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The Lilith Blog

August 8, 2018 by

Five Things You Can Do Right Now for Abortion Rights

Supreme CourtIn the 45 years since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, feminists have worried that abortion rights are gradually being eroded as some states passed laws limiting aspects of this medical procedure. After the announcement of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, the first thought in the minds of many is the future of hard-won reproductive rights. Now, the right to determine one’s own reproductive future, once guaranteed by Roe, may hang by a thread.

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