Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Tonight at 6 p.m. we will gather at the 10th Street entrance to Piedmont Park, in spiritual protest of police brutality and in honor of black lives. We will bring our “spiritual tools and gifts to usher in love, peace, and clarity for the road towards justice,” as the Facebook event page instructs. We will assemble in the park to share these gifts, to chant the words #BlackLivesMatter.
During the past ten days there have been many gatherings, and I’ve missed them all. Sometimes I didn’t hear about them until the next morning. Sometimes I knew in advance but chose to stay home.
I could be in the park tonight at 6 p.m.
The idea of a spiritual protest–one in which I raise my voice and pray with my feet–appeals to me. I imagine being in community with my neighbors to demand the pursuit of justice and to sing songs of peace will feel like a warm embrace, especially in the 95 degree heat of an Atlanta summer night. One of my colleagues will be in attendance and I feel drawn to be a partner in activism.
Still, I am torn.
I was gun shy even before Dallas. I feel guilty, I told a friend after hearing the news on Friday morning. Not because I missed the protest in Atlanta but because I am relieved to have missed it. I’m anxious there may be copycat shootings in our city. I feel guilty because I believe real change and true healing require the whole community uniting for this purpose, yet I can’t seem to find the courage to be present at these gatherings.
I realize there are many ways to honor black lives. During the past ten days I’ve made an effort to speak personally with black co-workers and friends. I’ve asked them to share their stories and listened as they recount their experiences with law enforcement, racial profiling and unequal treatment in society. I’ve tried to make a difference by engaging in deep conversations and nurturing these relationships.
Not everyone is temperamentally suited to large gatherings. Not everyone is able to summon the courage, or the anger, to participate in protests. Some of us prefer to grieve privately. Some of us are better equipped to connect with one another as individuals.
I affirm that #BlackLivesMatter and I choose to honor black lives one soul at a time, in the everyday interactions with my neighbors, co-workers and friends.
And I may decide to be at 10th Street tonight at 6 p.m.