The close of the Netzach [“Endurance” or “Leadership”] week of the omer journey seems an auspicious moment to share some resources for leading conversations and action within the Jewish community.
Are communities in which you’re active having the necessary conversations? It takes many forms of leadership to get discussion started in ways that allow everyone to listen and be heard. And it takes endurance and additional leadership to keep it going for the long-haul.
The omer count below is for Friday night. This post is scheduled to go out early on Friday in case anyone wants to share resources with their congregations this Shabbat.
Conversation and Sermon Sparks
“We are, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, in the midst of ‘the fierce urgency of now,’ write leaders of Jews United for Justice, introducing a set of resources meant for rabbis, but applicable to anyone who teaches or otherwise leads Jews. “Our partners in the Black community tell us that one of the most important things you can do…is to begin or deepen a conversation with your community about racism, police brutality, and inequality in Baltimore and beyond.” To that end, you’ll find background material, some texts, and sermon starters.
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights offers serman sparks on mass incarceration, a Prayer for Ferguson, and a number of other useful materials. They also issued a statement standing with Baltimore.
Resolutions: Then and Now
The Union for Reform Judaism adopted a Resolution on the Crisis of Racial and Structural Inequality in the United States in December; action items include two particularly relevant to congregations:
Encourage our congregations to establish and sustain relationships with diverse racial, ethnic and economic sectors of their communities, participate in community-based dialogues pertaining to race and community-police relations, and work to enhance violence prevention and conflict resolution procedures.
When appropriate to the size of a community and in cases of a clear, ongoing pattern of excessive police violence in general or against specific segments of the community, consider the efficacy of establishing a representative police review board with subpoena powers.
The 2014 resolution makes reference to a 1969 resolution, noting with sadness that it “rings as true today– if not more so”:
“Race and the U.S. Criminal Justice System”
50th General Assembly
Miami Beach, FL
The current demands made by the American black community painfully remind us of the appalling hurt done by our nation to a long oppressed multitude. Certainly we in the Reform Jewish community cannot allow our country to ignore the plight of America’s impoverished millions. Jewish imperatives require that we be ever sensitive to the aspirations and just demands of our country’s minorities.
WE, THEREFORE, URGE our congregations to redouble their efforts in support of those who have been exploited by our society. Synagogue programs supportive of oppressed peoples, the raising of funds for minority group use, pressure upon our government for massive action, are vehicles that we must employ to heal the deep wounds inflicted.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has materials about Selma and Civil Rights and related topics.
Israeli struggles with race, class, and color are not identical to those in the U.S. but are mutually illuminating. A recent article on 972mag [on on-line publication named for Israel’s telephone code] asks Jews of Central European background to understand the struggles of Syrian and other Jews of Middle Eastern descent:
In a world where skin color has consequences for the future of your children, colorblindness is not a virtue, it’s a serious problem.
Thanks to Michele Sumka for sharing the 972mag article.
Links, suggestions, and guest postings welcome.
We counted 27 on the evening of April 30. Tonight, we count….
Making the Omer Count
from On the Road to Knowing: A Journey Away from Oppression A key element in the journey from liberation to revelation is understanding the workings of oppression, and our part in them. We cannot work effectively to end what we do not comprehend.
So this year, moving from Passover to Shavuot, I commit to learning more about how oppression works and how liberation is accomplished. I invite others to join me:
Let’s work together, as we count the Omer, to make this Omer count.
Thoughts and sources welcome.
Share this graphic to encourage others to participate.
Aware that we are on a journey toward knowing God — from liberation to revelation — I undertake to know more today than I did yesterday about the workings of oppression. I bless and count [full Hebrew blessings in feminine and masculine address]: Blessed are You, God, Ruler/Spirit of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.
Today is twenty-eight days which are four weeks in the Omer.
Hayom shmonah v’esrim yom shehaym arba’ah shavuot la-omer.
In the spirit of the Exodus, I pray for the release of all whose bodies and spirits remain captive, and pledge my own hands to help effect that liberation.