Demographic estimates are that up to 15 percent of Jews in the United States are people of color and/or members of ethnic minority groups tracing their lines of ancestry back to places other than German-speaking countries or Eastern Europe. The pride these members of our Jewish family feel in their beliefs and traditions – some shared with all Jews, some unique to their ancestral cultures – show a mixture of love for Jewish identity and personhood, and determination to keep their communities’ foundations strong.
The Talmud teaches that existence, all time and space, has three elements at its foundation. Mentioned first among these: acts of lovingkindness.
Possible exercises for the day, choose one or both: Spend five minutes on the Learn tab of the website of Be’chol Lashon, an organization celebrating Jewish diversity, globaljews.org.
And/or, listen to and learn to sing “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” – “We Will Build a World of Love,”
Our Jewish martyrs died so that we can live. The stories of Isaac and Samson remind us that we must be willing to die for our convictions.
Exercise for the day: Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights- Those who refused to back down when facing violence and oppression. Protestors. Activists. Martyrs. Read about some of them here: Civil Rights Martyrs.
After Babylonian invaders destroyed our Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish civilization in its time, King Solomon rebuilt an even more stunning Temple, spanning 37 acres. Its description in the Torah is magical, beautiful treasure after beautiful treasure crafted from the material donations, artistic brilliance, engineering genius, spiritual devotion, and eternal vision of our people. Almost 2000 years after its destruction by Roman occupiers, its foundation still stands, the Western Wall. Jews now visit the Temple’s foundation every day, bringing our memories, hopes, and prayers.
Slavery stole the foundations of their societies and their spiritual lives from enslaved African people when they were transported to this continent in chains. Yet African Americans have found ways to rebuild their foundations here, among other ways in the beauty and spirituality of their art, music, and literature.
Possible exercises for the day, choose one or both: View the Western Wall of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem: Photographs of the Western Wall. If you were there right now, connecting to the beauty and power of our people’s ancient foundation, what would you think and what would you feel?
Jazz has been called Black classical music, an art form that captures the foundational beauty of Black life in this land. Listen to “You Got to Have Freedom” by Pharaoh Sanders:
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, in a speech just before his assassination: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
Exercise for the day: What is the foundation of your commitment to defeat structural racism and white supremacy? What has helped your foundation sustain?
For Jews, our shared ethical values have always been at the heart of our foundations: Love others as yourself. Be kind to the stranger among you, for once you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Jews have been forced from their homes over the centuries. Many of us who live in the United States now are descended from Jews who were displaced due to anti-Semitic violence.
Today, millions of people continue to be forced from their homes due to violent crime, poverty, and war.
Exercise for the day: Learn about some of the simple and splendid stories of survival that make us who we are. Take your pick of one or more of the following: Refresh your memory of Jewish immigration here: A Century of Immigration, 1820-1924 – From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America | Exhibitions. Read about the struggles immigrants are facing now: aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights. Read about the Syrian refugee crisis here: 02/24/2020 Syria Refugee Crisis Explained. Think of ways you can help immigrants and share the splendor of your life with others.
The Shema – Shema yisrael, adonay eloheynu, adonay echad – has been considered the cornerstone of our belief as a people, the foundation of our foundation. It proclaims God’s Oneness that includes us all. Wherever you go in the world, when Jews gather to pray, you will have the opportunity to pray the Shema with other Jews – each of us with our own unique voice, all of us together affirming our collective foundation and giving it renewed life.
Possible exercises for the day, choose one or both: Recite the Shema, out loud, as tradition encourages, three times today – in the morning, in the afternoon, and before you go to sleep at night. Take note of the ways this affirmation and strengthening of your foundation as a Jew affects you.
Has a commitment to human rights, social justice, and anti-racism been at the foundation of your identity? Remember how you first became aware how important these values were, and find one way today to live up to these foundational values today.
Exercises for the day: Listen to Esa Einai here:
And ask yourself, “from where does my help come?”
In 2015, a mass shooter killed nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, SC. Read about how that church rallied around a Pittsburgh synagogue after yet another mass shooting: Pittsburgh synagogue shooting survivors join Emanuel AME Church in shared sorrow.
How can we help other communities? Learn about Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights movement. This link is a good place to start: https://www.penntoday.upenn.edu/news/black-jewish-relations-civil-rights-movement. Then ask yourself, “What can we do going forward?”