Presidents’ Day

We sat on blankets in a park, the remains of shabbos lunch spread out amongst us. A lonely piece of sweet potato quiche, part of a pot of quinoa, endless containers of hummus and vegetable dips, a crust of challah, half a loaf of chocolate babka, a couple of cookies, the last few sips of a glass bottle of red wine and plastic bottles of tea and juice. We had eaten very well. Most of us had given up on sitting up and had flopped forward on bellies or back on backs to stare at the still-blue sky. We came from four American rabbinical schools. We were of different generations and aimed for different futures. Some of us had known each other for years. Others of us met in recent weeks. All of us carried privilege in our white faces and high education levels. All of us lacked it in being non-male and non-Christian. All of us were afraid.

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A shadowed rose- photographed November 9, 2016

It was the week after the election. Our lunch had been planned as much out of necessity as out of desire. We needed a space to process, to air our concerns, to celebrate whatever we could find to celebrate, and to hear the divrei torah (sermons) of rabbis in the states who would be speaking about the election results that shabbat. Israelis we knew, would have more distance from the election than we did. We needed to be as tucked into our American communities as we possibly could be. We passed around words of comfort, reading a few paragraphs each, some of us fighting tears, others letting them come. We had ideas of what the future might hold, but we couldn’t know.

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“I think we’re going to have to be more forward with our politics,” I told my classmate as we walked to class a few days later. “I feel like a lot of people while they’re in rabbinical school try to keep things quieter. I mean, you have people like Jill Jacobs but a lot of us try not to burn bridges. But with this, I don’t know, I think we’re all just going to have to be more forward.”

If all goes according to plan, I will become a rabbi in June of 2018. It will be 5 months before mid-term elections. I will be spending the year prior looking for work. I will want to appeal to synagogues and campuses and anywhere else that might seem like a good fit. My instinct, one that aligns with what I’ve been told by my teachers and mentors, is to be careful. Don’t post things that could be interpreted as inflammatory. Don’t get too political. Don’t put anything on Facebook or on Twitter that you wouldn’t write on a postcard. Get to know your communities before you push them. Listen and do not speak boldly until you have some notion of how people will respond.

All of that makes sense. It’s advice that I’ve generally tried to follow over the years, getting publicly political only when it’s necessary because what’s happening is so right or so wrong. But right now so much is so wrong, and I am not silent, and I am grateful that so many others are vocal and are taking action alongside me.

It’s February 21st. Inauguration was one month and one day ago. Yesterday was Presidents’ Day, and I finished this:

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I knitted it with yarn that I originally purchased to make hats for my sister’s boyfriend’s niece and nephew. I also ended up making two pairs of baby booties, another baby hat, and a hat for a toddler. I couldn’t help smiling when I thought of little children wearing the same yarn that’s now shouting out this message. They will grow up in a world where they will have to be taught to persist. Luckily, my people know how to persist. We teach our children words like these, diligently, passing them from generation to generation. We won’t stop now.

Until we have a new president, we will persist. Until we have a better justice system, we will persist. Until we all learn to look one another in the eye and see the image of God, we will persist. Each of us is a loop that matters for our collective future, and without a single one of us the resistance would be incomplete. We persisted. We persist. We will persist.

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One thought on “Presidents’ Day

  1. Surely humanity is in loss,
    Except those who have faith, and perform righteous deeds, and exhort
    one another in the mutual teaching of Truth, and patience and perseverance.

    This is from the Koran. Perseverance is a central element of religious faith, particularly that of the Jewish people. Without the perseverance of our forbears, you and I would likely not be Jews, just assimilated Americans, if that. (My mother entered the U.S. in 1924, just before the ban on Eastern Europeans went into effect. Her younger half-siblings had to go to Argentina and Brazil, then still open to foreigners.My father was an illegal when they met in New York. He had to leave the country and return in order to obtain a green card, based on marriage to my mother after she became a citizen.) Perseverance…..

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