I Don’t Want to Replace You

You don’t think of yourself as a bad person.

I’m not sure how to get this to you. I hope that someone who has a relative, or a neighbor, or a co-worker, will send it along.  But I’ve been thinking about you since Charlottesville.  I know that what you wanted was to feel as though matters were in your hands. You’re tired of feeling like other people have more than you and there’s nothing you can do about it. You think that people like me want to do you harm, or that we are doing you harm, or that we hate you. You’re glad that we’re scared; you want us to be more scared.

But you don’t think of yourself as a bad person. Maybe you don’t even think of yourself as a racist because you know that racists are bad, and you go to church, you love your kids, you take good care of your mom – how could you be a bad person? You just want some of the wealth of this country, and you think that I’m keeping it from you.

But I want to tell you that I’m not.

I’m a Jew. And I’m a rabbi – that means that I teach the ways of my faith to other Jews – and if you’ll read for just a second or two more, maybe a little to you, too.

When you said “Jews will not replace us,” maybe you were thinking that Jews are acting as a group to try to make sure that people like you disappear. Maybe you were thinking that we have something that you think you ought to have and we’re keeping it from you.  I don’t really know. Maybe you were thinking something else altogether. Maybe you were just tired of being trodden upon, and you were hoping that if someone else was below your heel, you wouldn’t be on the bottom.

But I just want you to know that the holy books I read – some of them are your holy books, too. And in the book of Genesis, it tells me that all of us are descended from one person – Adam.  The commentaries of my people say that the reason God made us all from one ancestor is so that we would all know that no one is better because of their ancestors.  It also means that no one is replaceable. Every one of us is precious and unique before God

The book of Exodus tells me that God lifts up the oppressed and frees them. That doesn’t mean things are easy – the entire book of Exodus is a record of just how difficult it can be. But it also reminds us over and over that because God rescued my people from Egypt, we have an obligation to help others – and that means you, too.  Adam is my father, and that means you’re my brother or sister. So, if you’re hurting, I’ve got to help you. And that’s why you’ll see me out in the street protesting bad laws.

I want you to know that my grandparents were all immigrants. They all arrived here with nothing. No one in my family is rich, I promise you. But we have enough to look out for other people. And I want you to know that I’m trying to look out for you, too. When I call my representative, what I tell him over and over is that what I care about is that the deck shouldn’t be stacked against anyone. Anyone!

The wealthy shouldn’t have an easier time getting their way with lawmakers, and they shouldn’t get out of jail just because they have money. You and your children should have opportunities, and comfort, and good food, and loving homes.

I know that sometimes it feels like someone has taken something from you, and you want it back, but it isn’t this country.  I don’t want to replace you. This country needs all of us, no matter where your family came from. God wants us all here, working together to help each other. I want you to feel at home in your country, and I want you to be my brother.

With blessing,

Rabbi Alana Suskin

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