Mourning and Affirmation

We are a nation in mourning.

We are a nation mourning the death of George Floyd, whose recent death at the hands of the Minneapolis police has once again brought to the surface the reality of racism in this country.

We are a nation mourning other victims of police brutality and racist violence like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, whose lives ended while participating in the most mundane, regular activities–sleeping at home, out for a jog.

We are a nation mourning the fact that since this country’s founding, African Americans have been systematically oppressed, marginalized, devalued, brutalized, and killed.

We are a nation mourning the fact that through law and policy we have institutionalized inequality, and through overt and implicit bias we have perpetuated hatred and division.

In traditional Jewish practice, we mourn by lighting a candle, rending our clothing, reciting prayers, receiving community. This week we have mourned by pouring out onto the streets, taking a knee, saying their names, raising a fist.

And in the midst of this we have a national leader who sows division, not unity; seeks pain not healing. A leader who has the audacity to stand in front of a place of worship he never enters, holding a book he has never read.

For if he had read that book, he would know that it tells a story of liberation from oppression,

commands us to love the vulnerable, the poor, and the immigrant;

reminds us that we are all part of one shared humanity;

requires that we share and fairly distribute resources;

and upholds the values of peace, justice, mercy, and compassion.

We are a nation in mourning.

And we are a Jewish community in mourning, mourning the persistance of hatred and the needless loss of life.

And we are a Jewish community in mourning, mourning the fact that despite our personal and communal successes, and our historic commitment to civil rights, we sometimes fail to recognize our own privilege as predominantly white, and at the same time our failure to celebrate the diversity of race and ethnicity within the Jewish people.

As a Jewish community in mourning we recite the Kaddish. The Kaddish does not speak of death, it is an affirmation of life. As we mourn the loss of individual life, we affirm the persistence of life itself.

We affirm the power to grow and change, to examine power and privilege, to bring down and rebuild.

We affirm that the way things are and have been, is not the way they should or will be.

We affirm that with grief comes anger and sadness and violence and hurt, and to express these is what it means to be fully human, and what is necessary to make the change we want.

We are a nation–and Jewish community–in mourning. And we are a nation–and Jewish community–that is rising up to repent for the sins of the past and write a new narrative of the future.

May the memory of our beloveds be for a blessing always.

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