So here we are, three weeks after the presidential election, and it ain’t an easy time to be a Jewish communal leader. From rabbis to federation CEOs and heads of other Jewish institutions, we are being called upon to choose how to respond to the election results in very public and profound ways. From where I sit, and the (countless) conversations I have had with colleagues in recent days, there are two primary ways to react: as prophets or as pastors.
Last week, CNN ran a controversial banner: “Alt-Right Founder Questions if Jews are People.”
A packed church of nearly 1,500 people gathered in unity to demand social justice. We came together from different faith backgrounds and secular communities, those who live in the city and those who live in the suburbs, from various economic backgrounds, black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. We were one community. We represented more than 100,000 people from our member organizations and we joined together for a common purpose. We’d been working behind the scenes on proposals to help strengthen our community and seek criminal justice reform, including decreasing overcharging for nonviolent drug offenders and the creation of mental health crisis centers to offer treatment to those who are mentally ill instead of incarceration. We committed ourselves to creating 1,000 new livable wage jobs. We comforted each other about the current tenor in our country, and lifted each other up with promises of action. We will not give up. We will join together to create positive change. Our elected officials were present, committing themselves to working with us, and we will hold them and ourselves accountable on reaching our goals. (See story here).
For many of us, the Thanksgiving holiday is like a ritual that we observe similarly each and every year. We often gather at the same home, with the same people, eating similar foods and sharing in conversations. If we gather with close friends or family whom we see often, then Thanksgiving is a time for our annual Turkey Day rituals. If we gather with family or friends whom we don’t see all year, then it is a day to catch up and reconnect.
If the answer is yes, then you should encourage them to apply to join the Rabbis Without Borders Network!
This has been a momentous time – and while I believe in the absolute separation of church and state, I also believe in addressing the always profound ways that the political climate affects us as individuals, and as Jews. And no matter who you voted for – no matter the reasons you made your choice – this is a tough time for us as American citizens – because living in the unknown is one of the most taxing and anxiety-provoking experiences we face as human beings.
Last week’s election prompted strong reaction and reflection from the Jewish community. With a majority of Jews supporting the Democratic candidate, and the troubling echos of anti-Semitism and xenophobia which permeated the campaign, the victory of Donald Trump has brought Jewish organizations to issue statements, hold gatherings and assess what the next four years will mean.
All eyes followed me in as I walked down the center aisle of the lecture hall. The members of the audience watched in absolute silence. They had no idea what would follow. Neither did I. She was near the door but was no longer about to leave. As I approached, she faced me. I came close and extended my hand toward her. She took hold of it and I held her hand in both of mine. I am listening, I said, and I feel your pain. Please stay. I promise not to disappoint you. She hesitated. I spoke again. Please listen to what I have to say and I will listen to what you have to say. She returned to her seat.
When I studied for my PhD in Jewish studies, I often had occasion to engage with antisemitism as a historical subject and intellectual exercise. However, since the election of Donald Trump, antisemitism has become a contemporary concern with practical implications and a frequent topic of conversation.