Shalom Shir Ami!
I begin this President’s Message with an acknowledgement that is periodically true for me and may be true for many others in the congregation. Simply put, I am tired. Bone weary. Skin saggingly. Achey Tired.
And yet, it is not time to rest. There is work to do. Things are not resolved. The world is not whole. Is not at peace. If it were, the Messiah would come or so, our teachings tell us. ‘We will not complete the work, neither are we free to desist from it.’ (Pirket Avot)
And yet, tired.
So, what. So what now?
Now is the time to acknowledge that for all the work to create safe spaces – spaces that are free of hatred, spaces where people can be who they are. Spaces where the incidents of your birth and background matter not at all and your actions carry weight. Environments in which your role is defined by you – your knowledge, your abilities, your own responsibility. And where playing fields are level and people are valued…
Despite all of the vital work done to create these spaces, we need to acknowledge that these spaces are porous. Infiltrated easily by fear. Fear carried by those have felt excluded for whatever reason from those safe spaces. People who have learned or been taught to blame others. Who perceive threats whether or not they or their families are really at risk. With that fear comes hatred, venomous acts of violence, discrimination, criminalization, mourning, loss and more fear.
These fears do not justify murder, vandalism, terror, or other vile acts. Nor do they give us permission to simply dismiss the people who perpetrate them. Instead, I pose the following question:
What do we need to do to ensure that everyone… EVERYONE… can utilize their potential in a positive way? Can contribute to their fullest extent? Live their life comfortably. Care for their family. Have meaningful and joyful lives?
Zero tolerance of discrimination, violence, and hate speech is important, and yet this cannot be our only approach. Thoughtful approaches that address genuine safety and security concerns are also part of the path forward. Unfortunately, of course, there are no easy answers for determining the approaches that will increase understanding, personal responsibility, and mutual respect in our society.
I offer my own small recommendations:
- Acknowledge that appreciating and embracing our rich diversity means that we must rely on diverse approaches to protect it.
- Find ways in our busy schedules to be available. Join the Castro Valley Unified School District Community Alliance, Eden Area Interfaith Council, or other groups that provide a network to rapidly respond and proactively engage in addressing issues and increasing inclusion.
- Choose opportunities to push back on assumptions and move beyond the comfortable in a conversation to increase understanding. As it is said ‘Seek to Understand and to be Understood’.
- Acknowledge your own prejudices and biases so that you may begin to understand those of others. In this way, perhaps we can get to the root causes of these and heal them so they no longer feed fear.
- Examine organizations you participate in to ensure that their policies and practices do not inadvertently exclude people for reasons that are irrelevant to the goals of the organization. Work collaboratively to bring positive change.
I welcome additional ideas and concrete actions, questions and other perspectives too, of course, are encouraged. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we approach a new Jewish year, Please find time to rest and rejuvenate. And then, let’s get to work.
B’Shalom v Moocal oo Mehzoomahn (In Peace and Ready for Action)