Why We Created the Olympia Charter for Compassion

A few months ago, spurred on by a spate of hate crimes in our small town of Olympia, I along with a group of local clergy met to think about what we can do. While we all understand the pastoral and teaching role we play in our communities, serving our own traditions, we also take seriously the role we can play in the public sphere, bringing the language of morality and ethics to our political and civic conversations.

From our initial meeting came the idea to craft a “charter of compassion,” a statement of values that we wanted to offer to our community and civic leadership. The idea is that the response to hate crimes would not just be about individual victimization but about the violation of fundamental values as a community.

The charter would also potentially inform other communal conversations. In my mind, I thought that having a statement of values that could be used to address our response to the issue of people suffering homelessness, that policy decisions could be made not just by political expediency, or solely in response to a vocal stakeholder, but by an appeal to basic spiritual and moral values.

We crafted a statement and passed it along to local clergy to sign on. We created a website that would allow any community member to affirm the charter. Last week we then brought it to City Council, reading it as part of the open comment period that opens each meeting. As the comment period came to a close, to our surprise, Councilmember Nathaniel Jones immediately made a motion to adopt the charter, a motion that then passed unanimously.

The timing of the release of the charter to the election was somewhat coincidental. We did not mean to time it to come out after the election, delays in planning pushed back the original date prior to the election that we had hoped to present it. Of course if things had gone according to plan we would not have known the results of the election. But perhaps it was the news of the election that led to the motivation to embrace this document.

I also recognize I’m posting this on our national holiday of Thanksgiving, which carries with it different meanings to different populations. For some a celebration, for others a day of lament. For some a focus on season and harvest, for others a focus on gratitude and humility. For some a focus on community, for others a focus on family. For some a time of harmony, for others a time of discord.

For all of these, the value of compassion can be our intention–a powerful motivator for how we relate to each other, to our history, to our community. Compassion does not imply approval or agreement, it is what simply brings us to recognize the fundamental dignity and worth of everyone. It is my prayer that we truly see compassion for all people made manifest in the days, weeks and years to come.

While originally written in response to past events, it may be this Charter of Compassion that will carry us forward to face the future.

The text of the charter is below, I invite everyone who so wishes to go to olycompassion.org and sign up.

  • As a community, we recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all persons. In doing so, we strive to practice respect and compassion towards one another, engage in civil dialogue, honor each individual as we ourselves would like to be honored.
  • As a community, we recognize our interdependence. In doing so, we strive to work collaboratively, bringing all voices to the table to solve community issues for the benefit of everyone.
  • As a community, we believe we must create a society where all people are able to live into their best selves. In doing so, we use our best efforts to work together for the common good. This means that public officials and citizens speak out with one voice against bigotry, racism, and religious prejudice.
  • As a community, we strive to live our shared values as we work to build a community that welcomes and respects the unique gifts brought by all those who make up our diverse Olympia community.

Yom Kippur Day 5777: “Addressing Homelessness in Olympia: The Need for Values in our Civic Life”

Last November, not long after the high Holidays, I took a risk when I, without prior consultation with the Board, committed our congregation to join with two other downtown faith communities to host a warming center for the homeless during the cold and wet winter months.

I don’t normally eschew process, I’m very process oriented. But the situation was dire, time was short, and when I met with my colleagues and Meg Martin from the IW shelter, we knew we needed to act fast. For as we know that during the winter months while there is a shelter, a permanent shelter, there is no daytime place for people to when the shelter closes. So I said yes, of course we would, and we would work out the details later.

And we did. The TBH took Mondays and Tuesdays and opened up, because Mondays we are closed and Tuesdays are minimal use. (The most inconvenienced group was the Senior Schmooze, which needed to move into the back classrooms for a few months. And this group was probably the most supportive group.) The shelter staff handled the management. There were rules of behavior, and a regular sign in. We set parameters as far as the boundaries of the space that could be used, and we agreed to provide a coffee and tea service for the guests. We were able to hook up cable TV—the wire lying dormant since we agreed to cable service with a bundle when we took on Comcast for our internet provider. Donations rolled in: coffee, tea, sugar, etc. And the people came.

It was amazing. It was an amazing site because of the normalcy evident within. Ultimately, the need that was served was that people just wanted a space. People just wanted to come into that space for the simple, basic reason of just being. Some conversed, some watched TV, some charged their phones, some drank coffee and some just slept—for those who went unsheltered overnight, the warming center became the place for respite, for sleep. Occasionally other service agencies came in to meet with people.

In total, the warming center operated 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. every day from November 24-March 31. The average daily number of guests was 130—not all at one time, but who signed in over the course of the day. The peak usage, which happened here, was 179. The warming center was a real success, but an unfortunate success. A success in that it served a real need, unfortunate that it was needed in the first place.

Overall, the warming center went off with minimal incident. Some increased wear and tear on the building, but we have this building, we should share it. We use it for tikkun olam just as we do for our spiritual and ritual needs. And so I thank you for your support in doing this, all of our members and guests who accommodated the warming center, I want to thank our staff, Catherine and Kirsten, who were here on a day to day basis, and who helped an facilitated with the warming center. I am very proud of the fact that we did this.
I tend to reflect on issues of social concern on Yom Kippur day because of the spirit of the haftarah that we just read. The words from Isaiah, which I had us all read, imbued with your own personal spirit of social justice and commitment to communal change. But as I learned from Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism who I studied with earlier this year as part of the Brickner Social Justice Fellowship I am doing this year, that for all his talk, Isaiah was a failure. He was a failure.

Why? Because his railings on did not result in meaningful social change.

So I don’t just want to stand here and say there is a homeless issue in our community. I want to stand here and say that we need to get behind efforts to solve it.

The warming center was not our only experience with homelessness this past year. A few weeks ago during the summer months, people started coming by the Temple and sleeping. This is not uncommon, we’ve always had this as long as we have been in this building, we have individuals who have taken shelter under our overhang, or spend the night.
But over the summer it was more, things started to change.. People started camping out, building structures out of tarps. And also, while in the past people would get up and move on in the morning, people were hanging out all day, in the courtyard and on the front entryway. And there weren’t any problems—I engaged with the folks who were staying here, most people were respectful of the space and each other, setting up guidelines and cleaning up our grounds—the situation began to become somewhat unmanageable. While we wanted to be compassionate, what were are responsibilities to our community and the people that were here?

So we convened a small group was convened to discuss the issue. We talked to other downtown faith communities that were wrestling with these issues. We talked about behavioral covenants, daytime verses nighttime, and specifically our values as a Jewish community. And after talking with people who are deeply engaged in the issue downtown, we decided that we ultimately could not manage the situation and would have to ban camping at the Temple. We were advised, with good advice from people in the know, we would need to go all in, or not at all. We would need to be engaged, monitoring constantly, checking in and aiding, possibly facilitating access to services, but it was something we realized that as a community, as a congregation we did not have the resources to do. So we had to make a difficult decision. We had to put up signs and ultimately say that there was no camping, no trespassing allowed.

And it was a challenge, based on our values and our commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam. But also realizing that in order to facilitate that tikkun olam we need to do it in a good, effective way. And so while our signs worked, the question still remains, what do we do about the issue of people who are experiencing homelessness in our community.
It is a real struggle for us because we are not just another downtown address trying to mind its small piece of real estate. We are a synagogue, a Jewish community rooted in values and a greater concern. And while we had to make that one decision because it was unsustainable to continue, it becomes our imperative then to work for a solution that is sustainable.

Interfaith Works, of which we are a member, Danny Kadden a member of our community is the Executive Director has done tremendous work on the issue of homelessness in our community, and I just want to share some reflection from Interfaith Works:

The “chaos of homelessness” is well documented, illustrating how quickly issues compound for people the longer they remain on the streets. Sheltered, “chronically homeless” adults – the most highly vulnerable subgroup experiencing homelessness – are inadequately served by existing case management resources in our community.

Because most resources are available only in fixed clinical or treatment settings that require clients to make and keep appointments on a regular or recurring basis, many persons go untreated or are only sporadically and inconsistently served, resulting in continued homelessness, persistent high utilization of emergency medical, mental health and public safety resources, and greater risk of death on the streets. The lack of effectiveness of these case management strategies constitutes a substantial barrier to services.

It’s difficult. We can understand. It’s difficult to navigate when we have means.
We have seen a lot of progress in our community. Our floating emergency shelter that we used to host 2 weeks over the winter is no more, because a more permanent shelter was established right around the corner at First Christian Church. There are many people focused on housing, from Interfaith Works as I mentioned from rapid rehousing through Sidewalk and the Family Support Center, sheltering at Camp Quixote and on. But what is sorely lacking is the ability to access services easily. What we don’t have is a place—a day place—to be when the shelters close.

There is movement on this front. The Community Care Center, sponsored by Providence and including community partners such as is becoming more and more of a reality. There was just an article about it last week in the paper. A housing levy is being discussed to build more affordable housing locally.

These are efforts that we as a congregation need to get behind. Not because it is what we experienced at our building, but because it is expected of us to do.

As a faith community deeply engaged with our civic life, we have a particular voice to bear on issues of common concern. It is no surprise that three faith communities and our local interfaith organization to create the warming center. Because we had the means on the one hand, but because it is part of our spiritual mission to help those in need. We bring to our engagement in civic life a set of values, beliefs and actions that compel us to behave in a particular way and to have particular concerns. We must act on them, and we must preach them and hear from Isaiah.

We have a gift to bring to our community and that is this particular rootedness in tradition, in values, in ideals. And it can come out not only in the work we do in our community, specifically in this case around homelessness, but to bring to bear to our entire civic life here in our community in Olympia. That to bring this idea of being a values based community to bear on our civic life just as we are called upon to be a values based community can be very, very powerful.

That to me is the point of religion as a whole, to orient ourselves towards that which is greater than ourselves. And not just that we answer to a higher authority, however you may define it, but that we have to answer to one another. We have to answer to one another. And I believe that as a community we are stronger when we are rooted in values. That we are not just concerned with what is right in front of us, that we are not just concerned with our own individual concerns, each trying to mark out our own territory. But if we take the larger picture, and apply to that a set of values that we commit to, then that that is tremendous. And that is something that we as faith communities can give to our larger civic life.

In fact, we are starting to talk about this. Starting to talk about this here locally among our faith communities, about bringing certain values to bear upon our civic life, upon our civic discourse. The question is, what are these values? What might we wish to offer? What can we offer to our civic leadership, what set of values that we can root our decision-making in?

And while across faith communities we can have a sense of agreement about what they might be, just thinking today, on this day, Yom Kippur, I look to our tradition, and what values we might be able to offer from our tradition.

And just as we hear from Isaiah echoing to give us this charge, we look to our Torah reading from this afternoon, that we will read later, from the Book of Leviticus, chapter 19, that can give us a guide.

This section in Leviticus that we are going to read is called “The Holiness Code” traditionally and holiness is an infusion of divine spirit, or a means of elevating one’s life beyond the prosaic, the day to day. How do we give our lives meaning? And how can we give our communities meaning? We can see this in the text that we are going to read later. I’ll give you a preview of it right now. And when I read this text, I see the value of mutuality, I see the value of compassion, I see the value of respect and I see the value of inclusion.

Mutuality: we can recognize that we are dependent on one another. In our afternoon Torah reading is that famous line, “love our neighbor as yourself.” But it doesn’t say which neighbor, just the rich neighbor, or the sheltered neighbor or the neighbor with means. It just says, “love your neighbor.” And the people around who are experiencing homelessness are our neighbors. People like to argue when we have this civic discourse that most of the people here are coming from other places, because there are so many services in Olympia. But the data does not bear that out—most are from Thurston County, they are our neighbors. And we have to remember that. We need to bring to bear the value underlying that verse that we live in a state of mutuality with one another.

And, once we identify our neighbor and recognize that we are in a state of mutuality, we need to take care of our neighbors. We need to have compassion. Yes, the verse says “love,” but love in the sense of action. The Torah doesn’t legislate feelings, but action. The Torah is not saying we need to feel a particular way, but we have to act in a particular way. And we have to act with compassion.Also in the Torah reading this afternoon we have the verse, “ When you reap the produce of your land you shall leave unharvested the corners of your field…but leave it for the poor.” Embedded here in the text is the idea of compassion for another, to be able to provide means to another, to be able to provide for another to the extent possible. Built into the fabric of life is sharing with others. Here a corner of the field. In our case, shelter. A place to go.

Compassion is the second value that we find in this text. And we do this without judgment. Each and every person in our community is worthy of and deserving of respect. Leviticus reads, “ Do not pervert the cause of justice, show favor neither to the lowly nor the mighty.” Don’t favor the lowly or the mighty, treat everyone with respect. Everyone is to be treated equally, and do not show favor. If someone comes to us in need, we should not sit in judgment. It doesn’t say, help those except for whomever, or judge those, in this case it is ok. We can’t judge, we shouldn’t judge, and ultimately we know we can’t because Besides, this is impossible to do because we do not know other’s stories. We don’t know each other’s backgrounds. We don’t know who is lowly, or who is mighty. We don’t know, and it shouldn’t matter. We treat everyone with respect.

And inclusion, our fourth value. We want to be sure that everyone is welcome, and not just those with means, not just those with shelter, but everyone who is here is counted. And one of the ways we do this is to make things accessible. In Leviticus we will read, “do not put a stumbling block before the blind. How much more that we shouldn’t put stumbling blocks in front of anyone, or to remove them if we see them. By doing so we create a more inclusive society, in which everyone is welcome. We remove the barriers, we clear the path. What are the barriers? They could be many things. They could be economic barriers. They could be cultural barriers. They could be attitudinal barriers. Remove the barriers, increase accessibility, create inclusion.

Mutuality, compassion, respect, inclusion. Isaiah preached the need to create a better society. Leviticus gives us the tools to do so.

These are good values to hold as individuals. But imagine if we can incorporate these values into our civic life. That decisions are made from our leadership with these values in mind. That decisions are not made out of a utilitarian sense of the most good for the most people, or simple economics, but how well they accord with these values?

We as a congregation, as faith communities, have a unique voice to bear on these issues. We speak the language of faith, of sacred action, of holy community, of serving a greater good. It is time that we not only uphold these commitments in how we engage in our community, but that we challenge our greater community to act in ways that are in accordance with our higher values.

And here, let us make the renewed commitment. We have been touched here by the issue of homelessness in our community. We engaged it in very real ways over this past year. We must continue to live our values and do what we can to make a real difference in our community. Because it is possible. So I chose this year to not talk about an issue that is out there, or global, or even national. I want us to think about the right here, the right now. Where it is immediately possible to make a difference.

After the warming center was over, Meg Martin from the shelter came to Erev Shabbat services one Friday to speak and to make a presentation. She spoke about the warming center and homelessness, she shared stories and data, it was very powerful. And she expressed her thanks to us as a congregation for stepping up and taking on the warming center, and for opening our doors at a time of great need.

She presented us with a plaque picture, signed by guests of the warming center. In the center is a quote that was printed on there (according to Google it is from Theodore Roosevelt, but I haven’t been able to confirm): do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

We know we are not going to solve it all, but from our corner perch here, on the corner of 8th and Washington in downtown Olympia, we are well positioned to do what we can with what we have to make this a better and stronger and more caring, resilient and values based community. That is what we have to offer. So just as we extended ourselves earlier this year with the warming center, and in other ways. Let’s continue that work of opening our doors in every way that we can.

Build It All

On the Jewish calendar, we are in a period known as the “three weeks.” It is a three week (!) period that stretches from the 17 of Tammuz (July 24) to the 9th of Av (August 14) that commemorates and memorializes the destruction of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem. The three weeks are a period of liturgical mourning culminating in the 9th of Av, which is a fast day.

While we are far removed from the Temple, and its system of animal sacrifice and hereditary leadership is not something we desire, the continue to mourn because of the symbolic nature of that location. It was a central location for the community at the time and served as a gathering place and point of spiritual connection. Its loss was devastating to the community at the time.

It is interesting that while we commemorate destruction, I look around our city of Olympia and see that there is much construction currently underway.

Several building projects are going up around town, mostly related to housing. A recently completed seven story housing project sits on Columbia Street downtown, while a low-income housing building is going up by the Transit Center. Townhomes are being built on 11th near state offices and more apartments are under way on Adams near the newly renovated Thurston County Bank building (which also includes new apartments). [All this in addition to new stores opening and other renovating and moving, and the new state office building going up across from the Capitol Building.]

As these projects were getting underway, there was and continues to be debate in local media, on Facebook and other places as to what this all means, especially with relation to housing. The question is, what type of housing we need, and what does it mean for our community.

On the one hand, the argument against market rate housing is that it ignores the real need for homeless services and just prices out those who can not afford it. Terms like “gentrification” are used. At the same time, those who want to build up downtown argue that what is needed are people who are willing to live, shop and work in our city center, and this is what market-rate housing brings.

I’m sensitive to all these arguments, and in response to all of this I feel the answer is: Yes. Build it all. We need it all.

Market-rate and affordable housing are not mutually exclusive. We should most definitely not ignore the real needs for social services and affordable housing at the expense of market-rate housing. At the same time, we should welcome all those who wish to live downtown. Having all would lead to a vibrant and diverse downtown and not exclude one population for the sake of another.

And, to be frank, nonprofits rely on charitable donations. We should welcome in those of greater means who are willing to invest in our community, not just by living and shopping downtown, but by supporting the myriad of services and nonprofits that rely on donations. State and city funds are not enough. Turning away potential funders and supporters will just hurt our social service network in the end.

So while we are building, we need to keep building: we have needs for more shelter beds, better access to services and the new day center—the Providence-helmed Community Care Center—that should be opening this fall. The warming center we helped host at Temple Beth Hatfiloh this past winter demonstrated some of the real needs and lack of services in this community. We need to continue to have the will and the desire to make all of this a reality.

The Temple in Jerusalem meant many things to the community at the time, so much so that its loss is a devastation that echoes through the centuries. We mourn its loss while at the same time hold out hope to recreate what it represented—a place for everyone, regardless of status or station.

Today, I Mourn…

In the wake of the shootings in Orlando, several groups in Olympia joined together to sponsor a vigil Sunday night. Earlier in the day I was invited to share some remarks at the evening’s vigil, and I prepared some words not knowing what format the vigil would take.

That evening in Sylvester Park the space was created via open mike and open community to share and deeply hear the emotions and experiences of the LGBT community, and especially the LGBT community of color, who were the targets of this horrible act of violence. 

I was asked to come to the mic, and I did so, recognizing that I spoke not for those most directly affected, but as a part of the greater community of friends and allies who were deeply hurt by these events and whose work is to listen and support, and to work to create a better world for all.

When invited in the morning I didn’t know how long I would have to speak, and at the vigil times were set at 3 minutes apiece. I went on a bit too long with my prepared remarks, which I regret, and I share them here in full:

I am honored to stand here in memory and solidarity tonight, humbled by the fact that I know that I, as a cisgendered straight man, was not the target here.

But while not all of us were the target, we are all the victims.

I stand here tonight in solidarity, being from a community that has historically has been and continues to be persecuted. I understand the fear and pain that comes from that fact.

And I stand here as a member and leader of a faith community. I recognize and accept the role religion has played in perpetuating hate and violence. Religion can be the source of much division, pain and hurt, and to say it does not would be disingenuous.

And at the same time, I believe that religion can be a source of inclusion, affirmation, love and comfort. And it is in that spirit that I am here.

So let us extend words, thoughts and prayers of healing to those who have been physically, emotionally and spiritually injured by the events today in Orlando. May their healing be complete and come speedily. And let us extend words, thoughts and prayers of comfort to the victims and their loved ones. May their memories be a blessing to us all.

But we know that is not enough. It is not enough to mourn for those who have died. There is so much more for which to mourn.

Today, I mourn for the fact that despite the progress we make as a society, there are those who wish to move us in other directions.

Today, I mourn for the fact that in the face of overwhelming evidence of the destructive nature of firearms, we are incapable as a nation to do anything.

Today, I mourn for the fact that there are those whose hearts and minds remain closed and unwilling to accept those who are unlike them.

Today, I mourn for this willful rejection of the humanity of another and the denial of human dignity and rights.

Today, I mourn for the impulse to respond to one act of hatred with another.

Today, I mourn.

Today, I mourn for the fact that what was supposed to be a safe space turned out not to be.

Today, I mourn for the fact that those who sought welcome and acceptance were told they were not.

Today, I mourn for those who were murdered simply because of who they were.

Today, I mourn.

Today, I mourn for those whose murder causes tremendous pain to their loved ones who held them close.

Today, I mourn for those whose murder has become the long-hoped for reconciliation with family and friends who rejected them.

Today, I mourn for those whose murder will just deepen the estrangement.

And today I mourn for those whose murder is their coming out story.

Today, I mourn.

It is a common refrain to say that love is stronger than hate, but I’m not going to say that. Love and hate, like anger and sadness, are only emotions, feelings.

What we should say is that acts of love must be stronger than acts of hate. It is only what we do, not what we feel, that can change the world.  And so we commit ourselves to acts of love. To acts of welcome, to acts of acceptance, acts of celebration, acts of connection, acts of community, acts of resistance and acts of justice.

May the memory of those who have died inform how we who survive shall live. Let us now open up our hearts, clench our fists, lift our feet and raise our voices  to create a more just and peaceful world, free of hatred and oppression and violence, where we all stand together and see that we share a common vision, a common cause and a common future.

Why I Created a Petition to Change the (Future) Dates of Olympia Arts Walk

Last week it felt like two simultaneous preparations were happening. People were prepping for Passover, getting boxes of matzo, choosing recipes, sending and accepting invitations to Seder. And people were prepping for Olympia Spring Arts Walk, hanging art in downtown businesses, tuning up instruments, putting last minute preparations into Procession of the Species costumes.

And with the simultaneous preparations came from some corners grumblings or disappointment at the confluence of the two. Because this year, the beloved institution of Arts Walk—always on the last weekend in April—fell on the first night of the important festival of Passover—always on the 15 of Nissan but variable according to the Gregorian calendar.

This is not the first time something like this happened. Two years ago Fall Arts Walk, which occurs on the first weekend in October, coincided with Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of our calendar. And when this happens, we in the Jewish community are one, reminded how our calendar and sacred celebrations are not normative, and two, forced with the need to either make choices or accommodations as to how we wish to participate in either our Jewish traditions or community celebrations (or both). It is a conflict I wrote about recently when the Democratic caucuses fell on Shabbat morning.

So to channel expressed frustration and to raise awareness, I created a petition on change.org. While I’ve signed petitions before from this site, I’ve never made one, and gave the technology a whirl. I created a petition and shared it on social media. Unbeknownst to me it was also passed along to the Olympian, which ran a story about it.

The gist of petition is that while the Jewish holidays are variable in relation the Gregorian calendar, they are not random. We know when the holidays will fall in perpetuity. Now we can just look up on line, but one of my prize possessions is a book of a perpetual Jewish calendar that tells the corresponding Jewish date for the years 1900 to 2100. (My dad first got it before the advent of the Internet to track the date of his mother’s, my grandmother’s, yahrtzeit). I keep it open on my desk.

calendar

So in other words, we know when the holidays and Arts Walk will conflict again. And we know far in advance. On a whim I looked it up, and found that in 2027 Fall Arts Walk will conflict with Rosh Hashanah, in 2041 Fall Arts Walk will conflict with Yom Kippur and in 2043 Spring Arts Walk will fall on Passover. The “ask” of the petition is that the city officials in charge of making those scheduling decisions take into account those conflicts and consider rescheduling Fall and Spring Arts Walk in those years. The petition is active, and as of this posting there are over 160 signatures.

I’m not sure what will come of it, though I do intend to pass it along to city leadership and maybe open up a conversation. For again, it wasn’t meant to be adversarial. And I don’t know if it will be successful in its stated goals of changing the event in 25 years. But, it was meant as a reminder that we live in a diverse community, diversity is difficult, and we need to be continually thinking through and evaluating how we can embrace evolving inclusivity.

I was torn in creating and promoting the petition. I recognize that our secular calendar is based around a Christian flow of time, and part of me just accepts that. At the same time, it is important to remember that not everyone fits, and that we as Jews are governed by two calendars that conflict at times (having to take off school or work for the High Holidays is another issue). I know too that it shouldn’t be my place to have to continually educate, that general knowledge of world religions should be standard. And at the same time, I know that we must advocate for ourselves, share our experiences and point out when we feel challenged and excluded.

Through the petition I hope to express personal concerns and widen the experience of the Jewish community so that others feel empowered to express the same (whether one identifies with Judaism religiously, culturally, ethnically or a combination, this issue with the calendar conflict served as a reminder of “otherness.”) And it gives others in the greater community to show their support and reminds us in the Jewish community to lend our support to others who feel similarly challenged and excluded.

So in some ways, while I started it on a lark, the petition is already successful, for the goal was not necessarily accommodation, but mindfulness. And mindfulness is the first stage of any movement of liberation.

Tonight ushers in the 7th day of Passover, our festival of liberation. It was the 7th day that tradition teaches was the day of the crossing of the Red Sea. In the story of the Exodus in the Torah we are told that it wasn’t just the Israelites who left Egypt, but the group that left was an erev rav, a “mixed multitude,” a group of people that represented a variety of backgrounds and communities. Israelites, yes, but also Egyptians who found common cause with them.

Thus from the very beginning a liberated community is defined by diversity. When we create community, there will be people with different attitudes, ideas, mores and narratives that we need to take into consideration. We can go on thinking and pretending we are all the same, or we can say, wait a minute, something else is going on here that we need to think about. And the challenge, then, is to navigate this diversity to truly create a society that welcomes and celebrates all.

And if you are up for the challenge, please sign.

Where Do You Charge Your Cell Phone?

Years ago, I remember learning of a movement to create voice mail boxes that could be accessed from pay phones, so that people who are experiencing homelessness will have an “address” that could help with communication, job searches, etc. The lesson of how technology can address this specific social issue made an impression on me.

Technology changes, but the principle stays the same. Those who are homeless can now get an email address, or Facebook, which can be logged into through public computers at the library—a virtual address that can help in so many different ways. And now, with cell phones becoming cheaper and easier to obtain, those who are homeless can have the same ease and access to communication as anyone with a physical address.

The one major challenge will cell phones, of course, is they need to be charged. And that is the big question: if you are homeless, where do you charge your phone? Think for yourself when and how you charge your phone. Perhaps you make a point of plugging it in by your bedside overnight so you wake up with it fully charged. Or you leave it connected at work while you sit at your desk. Or in your car you make sure to have a charger so you can automatically plug it in on your commute to work or running errands. I do all three, so I am never at risk of being completely out of juice.

It’s not having a cell phone that we tend to take for granted these days, it’s having the ability to charge our phones when we need to that we take for granted.

This began to dawn on me when I would see people hang out in Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia, with their phones plugged into the outlets on the lampposts. Or when people would sit in the TBH courtyard and use our exterior outlet (which we have since removed because it was vandalized and damaged.) Or when people would come into the warming center cosponsored by TBH, and one of their main concerns was being able to plug in their phone. This was an eye opener.

I noticed this and many other things over these past four months that the warming center was opened. Today, the warming center, as planned, closed its doors.

warming center
Photo from the Olympian
Four months ago, my colleague the Rev. Tammy Stampfli from The United Churches and I were invited by our third colleague, the Rev. Amy La Croix of First Christian Church, along with Meg Martin and other staff from the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter, to strategize about a new idea. The winter cold weather and rain were on their way, and Olympia was faced, as it has been in recent years, without a place for homeless people to go during the day. The original ideal of a full service shelter/day center championed a few years ago needed to give way to a permanent overnight shelter only, and while that was a great step forward it still left a gaping hole of needs. Where do go during the day when the shelter closed at 7 a.m.?

We made the agreement that the three faith communities and the IW Shelter would open a temporary winter warming center, to run from the end of November to the end of March. We worked out details—we would open 7 days a week, from 7:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., and hosts would rotate on a regular schedule. (TBH hosted Mondays and Tuesdays.) The shelter staff would oversee and manage the day center, signing people in, enforcing the rules, etc. Each faith community would provide a coffee/tea service (no meals). And each faith community generated its own protocols about how their building was to be used, the spaces available, the bathrooms designated.

And then, at the end of November, the warming center opened its doors, with TBH being the first host.

It was, in many ways, an experiment to see what was possible. It was very much a “ready, fire, aim” undertaking, as it was hard to know what it would be like happened once it was underway. Shelter staff was amazing, taking tremendous care of the guests and taking care of our building. Many people donated coffee and tea and money to keep the coffee tea service going. We ran cable through the walls to get cable television in the social hall. (We already had service through our bundle deal with Comcast for our phones and internet). Some programs were rescheduled or relocated. The generosity of spirit shown by the TBH membership and leadership has been incredible. And in the end, the warming center went off very well and with little incident.

As the warming center closes, my hope is that it was able to demonstrate a need and a possibility. That the need exists for a day center in Olympia than can help alleviate homelessness and provide access to resources and care, and that such a center is feasible. There are so many factors that underlie homelessness beyond economic—mental illness and substance abuse, to name two—that the ability to concentrate services would be tremendously beneficial. I am heartened by the initiative of Providence along with other organizations to make something like this a reality for our community. It is an initiative I think we should all fully support.

But even beyond these more substantial needs, something simpler and perhaps even more important is required, and that is what we were able to do with the warming center. For looking back over these past four months I see a tremendous success in that we were able to provide the basic human needs that we all desire and require (and sometimes take for granted): a warm, dry place to be to rest, to connect with friends, to have a cup of coffee, to watch TV, to read a book or play a game. And yes, to charge cell phones.

Fear. Anger. Hate. Suffering.

To be honest, I was going to take a break this week.

I wasn’t going to send out a weekly message this week—it is winter break from school, and with the kids home I need to alter my schedule. Plus it was Erez’s birthday yesterday, so I took time off so we can have a family adventure. And my parents are coming into town for a few days, also meaning that outside of Shabbat, I wasn’t planning to do much this week.

[And since it is probably too early to write about the new Star Wars movie without giving away any spoilers, I will hold off on that for a bit. But, please, go see it so we can talk about it!]

But then Tuesday morning, I arrive at the shul. There was a lot going on there that morning, Tuesday is one of our days hosting the warming center, which has been getting a lot of activity. And plus we had roofing contractors come to do some cleaning and repair work. It was pointed out that there was some graffiti on the statue outside the office doors, a commissioned work by local artist Simon Kogan that was presented to the Temple when we moved into our new space. Upon closer inspection, the graffiti was a swastika.

I sent out a letter to the congregation that morning, which I also posted on here on my blog and shared on Facebook. Since that went out there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the greater community. The Olympian picked up the story. Our local interfaith community partners have been notified, as has the ADL chapter in Seattle and the Olympia Police Department.

And though I would like to clean it up as soon as possible, I want to do it right, so have been in touch with Simon as to how best remove the paint without damaging the statue itself.

And while all this is happening, we continue on. Our calendar continues, and this Friday and Saturday of course is Shabbat. In our weekly Torah reading we read parashat Vayehi, the end of the book of Genesis.

In this portion, we read the end of the Joseph story. Joseph, who was sold into slavery yet who was able to rise to the heights of the Egyptian government, reconciled with the brothers who sold him. In this last part of the story, the brothers and their father Jacob move from their home in Canaan to a new home in Egypt where they will be close to Joseph. And after Jacob is reunited with his favorite son, he dies, but not before offering his blessing to his children.

Although the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers is a big part of the story, we learn in this week’s reading that it was perhaps incomplete. Once their father is dead, the brothers believe that Joseph might want to take revenge on them—that is, they think Joseph didn’t want to do anything to them as long as their father was alive, but now that he was gone Joseph will act:

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did him!’ So they sent this message to Joseph, ‘Before his death your father left this instruction: So shall you say to Joseph, ‘Forgive, I urge you, the offense and guilt of your brothers who treated you so harshly.’ Therefore, please forgive the offense of the servants of the God of your father.’ And Joseph was in tears as they spoke to him.” (Genesis 50:15-17)

The text does not record any such instruction from Jacob; the brothers seemingly make up a story in order that Joseph not do any harm to them.

Jewish tradition looks upon their act kindly, saying that it is ok to bend the truth sometimes to keep the peace. But what interests me is the brothers’ initial motivation. In this interaction with Joseph, they are clearly driven by fear.

And maybe this was their problem all along, they were driven by fear. It is what led them to first try to kill Joseph and then sell him into slavery—that they were fearful of his power of dream interpretation, or they were fearful for their own standing knowing Joseph was their father’s favorite, or they were fearful of him for no rational reason whatsoever. Fear can be seen as a motivator which led to their desire to do terrible things.

And that is the situation we are facing now. Fearmongering is taking center stage and entering the national discourse in a way that it hasn’t in the recent past. When national figures can talk in fearmongering terms about immigrants, or Muslims, or other groups and attract a large following, that is a cause of concern. It creates a culture where overt expressions of hate have the potential to become commonplace.

It creates a culture in which people feel emboldened to draw symbols of hate on Jewish institutions.

YodaAs the great sage Yoda once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (There, I was able to get in a Star Wars reference.) We see this in our earliest texts in the Joseph story. And we see this now.

I don’t know who is responsible for this, or what their motives are. There was an uptick in neonazi activity this summer surrounding the shootings of two black men by an Olympia PD officer. We have already seen TBH defaced as an extension of anti-Israel sentiment. But having a swastika is new, and has not happened as long as I have been with the congregation, and it is hard for me to not see this outside of larger events taking place within our community and nation. When we create a culture of fear, it stirs up anger which enflames hate.

We as a Jewish community will need to take this seriously. We will need to be pragmatic and do what we can to address security concerns. We will need to continue to reach out to allies for support which is so critical. And our additional challenge is for us to not go down this path of the dark side. The swastika rightly inspires fear, and that may very well have been the intention of the perpetrator. But we must not let ourselves be driven by it.

 

 

A Swastika at TBH

This morning I discovered a swastika painted on a statue outside the Temple Beth Hatfiloh building. This is the letter I sent out to my congregation community.
Friends,
This morning I arrived at TBH to find a swastika painted on the statue that graces the entrance to our offices.
Earlier this morning I read an article about how one of the bishops in Greece is blaming the Jews not only for the troubles of the Greek economy but for the increase in support for same-sex marriage, which he vehemently opposes. A recent study documented how Jews are still the number one target of hate crimes in this country. Anti-Semitism is alive and well, and we as Jews need to be mindful and cautious.
We are living in difficult times. These are times when racism is again rearing its ugly head. Islamophobia, both in the form of hateful rhetoric and attacks on Muslims, is entering the mainstream. Talk of immigration devolves into stereotyping and fearmongering. Expressions of exclusion and bias are being normalized.
I do not know who is behind this particular incident, whether this is done with malicious intent related to these trends or mindless pranksterism. We have experienced vandalism recently stretching back a few weeks, primarily our exterior courtyard outlet being broken several times, which we have subsequently removed. Graffiti has adorned our walls in the past. Indeed, the statue also had eyes and teeth drawn on it. But whatever the reason, a swastika is not mere vandalism-it is a symbol of hatred with deep resonance with Jews, and shakes us to our core, especially in a community in which we are constantly reminded of our minority status. (And this is the first instance of a swastika being drawn on the synagogue in recent history.)
I have taken photos of the graffiti and filed a report with the Olympia Police Department, which is rightfully labeling this a hate crime. I have alerted our partners through Interfaith Works and Unity in the Community about the incident. And I have been in touch with the artist, Simon Kogan, for guidance on how to best clean the statue without damaging it.
And I will say again as I have in the past, that in the face of hatred, we must continue to do what we always do: to live our lives as Jews out loud and in meaningful ways, to commit ourselves to our Jewish community and to Jewish continuity, to engage with our greater community, to perform acts of social justice and to stand up for those who are similarly oppressed. It is in this way that those who seek to marginalize us, those who seek to threaten us, those who seek to inspire fear in us will not succeed.
L’shalom,
Rabbi Seth Goldstein
statue

Yom Kippur Day 5776: “Jews and Race, in Olympia and Beyond”

My friends, we need to talk about race.

Three months ago, two African American men were shot by a white police officer here in Olympia. The men were caught trying to shoplift beer at the westside Safeway and, after fleeing, were confronted by a member of the Olympia police. Some form of altercation happened, and the two men were both shot. Thankfully they were not killed, although one remains paralyzed by the incident.

And in an instant, the news that we have heard about across this country. The news of police shootings, the news of white officers, the news of black victims. It became our news. Our community became one of those communities.

Much has happened since that night Andre and Bryson were shot by Officer Donald. The evening after the shooting, I along with local clergy held a forum here in this sanctuary, with the presence of the Mayor and Police Chief, to allow members of the community to share their feelings and concerns. At the same time, a protest march made their way downtown. Since that time, as the investigation was underway, there was further organizing and coalescing, conversations and opportunities to speak out. And as the prosecutor released his report, absolving officer Donald of any wrongdoing, yet proceeding with charges against the two men, further protests were mounted.

I have been present for several of these protests. And while marred by the presence of open-carry, white supremacist activists on the one hand and by black bloc anarchists on the other—both it seems looking to provoke and wanting a fight and unfortunately finding it—these have served to peacefully remind us locally of the mantra that is echoing around our nation: Black Lives Matter, and that as a nation, we still need to have a serious conversation about race.

And we, as Jews, need to talk about race. We, as Jews, need to affirm Black Lives Matter.

There is much that can be commented on with our local shooting. As the prosecutor has released his report, and the Olympia Police Department has commenced its own internal investigation, there are questions as to whether or not proper police procedure was followed, and whether or not Officer Donald put himself in jeopardy. There is the issue about the attempted theft of beer by the two men–I can not ethically dismiss this fact though some would like to relegate it to the status of “everybody does it.” But the question of whether or not charges should have been brought is an open one. There is the issue of violence in our country, that we are quick to turn to violence in many situations, and the threat of violence—and the ubiquity of guns in our country leads to the invisible and ever present threat of violence—is another factor which led to this incident.

And even with all of this, it still boils down to physical violence perpetrated by a white person upon a black person. And for this we must make a reckoning. For this we must atone.

This is not to attack Officer Donald. This is not to attack police in general. It is to attack a system that perpetuates an injustice in which African Americans have since the beginning of this country been disadvantaged, which has led to distrust in institutions, suspicions, and fear. The mindsets, attitudes, assumptions about race are at work everyday in ways both conscious and unconscious. We may not know which of these played into the Olympia shooting, except to say that they were.

As the New York Times editorial board wrote, “The “Black Lives Matter” movement focuses on the fact that black citizens have long been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police, and is of a piece with this history. Demonstrators who chant the phrase are making the same declaration that voting rights and civil rights activists made a half-century ago. They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued.” Do all lives matter? Of course they do, that is the fundamental Jewish teaching—that we are all created in the divine image, and that we all descend from a common ancestor, Adam and Eve—to teach that no one can claim superiority over another.

But unfortunately we do claim superiority one over another, and so Black Lives Matter needs to be said.blm sign

The names that gave rise to this movement are etched on our national consciousness: Freddie Gray, Baltimore; Eric Garner, Staten Island (“I can’t breathe.”); Michael Brown, Ferguson; Sandra Bland, Waller County, Texas—all at the hands of police. And then of course the murder of the Rev. Clementa Pickney at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, along with his parishoners, who were engage in sacred study when a man professing racial hatred came in and, after joining them for study and partaking of their hospitality, shot them dead.

And it was perhaps this last one that stands out the most, for the setting was too familiar.

These killings are devastating. And the numbers too are devastating.

Blacks are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites. If you take it by age, blacks ages 15-19 are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Almost 1 in 3 African American men will be arrested in their lifetime. While People of Color make up 30 percent of the US population, they make up 60 percent of the prison population. People of color are three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop. Harsher school punishments, higher rates of juvenile incarceration, lower wages, voting rights challenges, and on and on.

We need to talk about it, and we need to talk about it as Jews. Bryan Stevenson is an attorney who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery Alabama, who recently wrote a book Just Mercy, a story about his commitment to providing legal representation to the most desperate and an examination of an oftentimes unjust system.  He himself is African American. Last year he gave a talk at the Consultation of Conscience, a meeting of Jewish social justice leaders, and spoke of how in Germany, everyone wants to talk about the Holocaust. There is a desire to reckon with the past, to examine that dark chapter in the country’s history. Yet in America, we do not wish to truly examine the effects and slavery, and come to terms with what that difficult chapter in our history means for us today.

We need to begin to identify the attitudes and assumptions that lead to these disparities. That led to black kids getting killed by white cops. We need to examine, for example, privilege, or the fact that with white skin comes benefits, assumptions, advantages that are deeply rooted in a system to sustain them.

And here is where the Jewish piece becomes that more interesting. For where do Jews land on the privilege scale?

Our history is complicated. For Jewish community is by no means uniformly “white.” Jews are ethnically diverse, and not just worldwide. Across the US we have a diversity of backgrounds and ethnicities that prevent us from saying that we are a white community. About 20 percent of the Jewish population in the US is non-white or non-Ashkenazi. Our own Jewish community, and our own families (my extended family includes African Americans, Yemenites, Moroccans) are racially and ethnically diverse.

At the same time, I look at myself for example, I ethnically trace my roots to Central and Eastern Europe, and with that European ancestry comes lighter skin. And a good part of the history of the Jewish community in this country has been coming to terms with what it means to be both “white” and “non-white” where whiteness is both a physical feature and a social construct.

We know that Jews were not always accepted in this country, indeed anti-Semitism has not gone away. Jews have been relegated to the status of “other.” Racism has infected attitudes towards Jews, indeed the term anti-Semitism, coined in Germany in the 19th century, was meant to distinguish the Jew not from the Christian, but from the German, the Aryan.

At the same time, the majority of Jews who trace their ancestry to Eastern Europe have been able to “pass” and to gain entry in the majority population. Historical studies, like The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race and American Identity by Eric Goldstein and How Jews Became White Folks by Karen Brodkin, trace this development and tension.

And I think that we as Jews understand privilege because, especially here in Olympia, in which we Jews are as much a minority as African Americans, find ourselves not privileged in many of our interactions and societal engagements.

For example, our ability to celebrate our holidays and worship in the way we like is not shared by the majority. So that is why you have curriculum nights at school scheduled on Yom Kippur and this coming spring the first night of Passover falls on ArtsWalk. To come to services today we had to make accommodations with our workplace or school, and sometimes supervisors or teachers are not understanding, or skeptical, or ignorant. Or maybe it comes down to more subtle things, like references and experiences shared within the Jewish community—including food or language—that is not found within the larger dominant community. Or expectations that you represent all of Judaism. Or the expectation that you know what Christmas is but there is no expectation that others know what Purim is. These are the signs that we are at the other end of privilege for much of our existence here in Olympia.

Yet when many of us walk down the street, we are no different than our Christian (or culturally Christian) neighbors. For we fit in in a predominantly white Christian community. And we can adopt to the prevailing norms as we see fit.

This complicated tension, that of being of and outside the majority, is on the one hand a challenge and an opportunity. When it comes to race, it can be seen as pitting two identities—that of majority and that of minority—against each other, unsure where to fit and not fully aligned with either side, leading to questions and doubt. And at the same time, it is an opportunity, because we understand not having privilege, and so can bring that to bear on conversations on race.

Perhaps because of this interesting history that we have found ourselves on the side of civil rights in this country. Julius Rosenwald, the force behind Sears Roebuck who donated much of his wealth to black educational institutions in the south. Jewish refugee professors fleeing Europe who found homes in black colleges in the south. Jewish attorneys who worked for the NAACP arguing such cases as Brown v. Board of Education. Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who along with James Chaney freedom riders who were killed by Klansmen. Rabbis like Abraham Joshua Heschel and Maurice Eisendradth who stood shoulder to shoulder with Martin Luther King and joined the March on Washington.

The history of civil rights in this country is marked by the participation and active support of Jews, but it can not just be relegated to history. We can not simply live in the nostalgia of the 60s. The challenge now is to continue to pick up the mantle and continue to be allies to the African American community and to engage in issues of race in this country. And while issues relating to African Americans have been at the forefront, we remember too that the picture of race in this country is getting increasingly more complex.

So what might this look like?

Stevenson in the talk I referenced earlier mentions four things to do to confront issues of race and injustice in our country: Get close to it, change the narrative, protect our hopefulness and choose to do uncomfortable things.

Get close to it: we need to listen to the voices of African Americans. We need to listen to their stories, their fears, their concerns, their experiences. Later today at mincha we will read from Leviticus 19, the Holiness Code, and we will read “do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor”. The problem isn’t the first part, we know we should not stand idly by. The problem is in the second part, in determining who is our neighbor. For too often we have a too narrow view of who is our neighbor.

Learn the ideas of allyship. Just as we Jews have needed allies throughout our history. This could mean reaching out to your neighbor. This means connecting with organizations like SURJ—Standing Up for Racial Justice—an organization of white allies to African Americans. And this means recognizing and celebrating the diversity within Jewish community as well.

Change the narrative: “Our history,” Stevenson says, “is that for decades we humiliated and anguished and injured people of color.” We need to gain perspective on this story, and come to terms with it.

Moses was born in Egypt, and though an Israelite, raised within the Pharaoh’s household. He was, culturally, an Egyptian. As an adult he ended up murdering an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating an Israelite slave, he then fled for his life to Midian, another land on the Arabian peninsula. There he married and had a son, whom he named Gershom, or “stranger there” because, as the text says, “I am a stranger in a foreign land.”

Moses the cultural Egyptian, raised in privilege among the majority population, was only able to see difference when he himself had the experience of being the other, the ger, the “foreign one.” And once he had this perspective, it was only then that he was able to return to Egypt and serve as a liberator.

If we can recognize our privilege and recognize our lack of privilege as well, then we like Moses, can gain perspective and then help change the narrative.

Protect our hopefulness. As Stevenson says, “Injustice prevails when hopelessness persists.” And we Jews have always been the people of hope. From our long history of overcoming hatred and oppression and genocide to the notion of shearit yisrael—a remnant of Israel—that will always exist to uphold the covenant, we are a people of hope. Any severe decree, as we say in our liturgy in the Unetaneh Tokef, can be overcome with prayer, repentance and righteousness. This is a statement of hope.

And it is a statement of action, for as Stevenson says, we must choose to do uncomfortable things.

One of the most powerful things I read on race recently was Ta-Nahisi Coates unflinching and powerful book Between the World and Me. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. It was uncomfortable.  It is written as a letter to his son, in which Coates provides hard truths, deep experiences and dire warnings about growing up as a black man in America.

Coates speaks of the Dream and the Dreamers, but this is an exclusively white dream. And not only a white dream, but a dream built on the back of blacks. This passage stood out:

They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them n slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, and entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empires of, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to strain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.

“Vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.”

On this day, when we acknowledge being vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans, we must choose to do uncomfortable things. We must choose to remember, remember our history and the history of this country. We must remember that racism continues to be a persistent threat. We must remember that we have a voice and a presence as another minority in this town.

On this day, when we acknowledge being vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans, we raise the banner of black lives matter, to commit to hear the stories, to be allies, to be in community, to engage. We know we do not have all the answers—I know I don’t have all the answers—but we commit to learn, to grow, to question, to do our own work and to follow when necessary.

On this day, when we acknowledge being vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans, we reject the phrase all lives matter. It is true, but it is not what is needed at this time. And, at the same time, we can not summarily dismiss and devalue institutions like government, or the police, for those, like us, are human, and have the ability to change and grow. We open ourselves up to forgiveness and repair.

And on this day, when we acknowledge being vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans we commit to justice, and commit to healing. We know it is possible. As we just read in the haftarah from Isaiah,

Indeed, not for all time shall I be quarrelsome,

Not for eternity shall I seethe with rage,

But from me shall my spirit drip like dew.

I shall create the breath of life.

We are vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.

“God,” Stevenson says, “uses the weak and the broken to say the things that must be said in a just space.” Moses was broken, Isaiah was broken, we are broken. So we’ll say the things that must be said. We will not forget. We will raise up the fallen. We will stand with the powerless. We will recognize and celebrate and honor the ethnic and racial diversity within Jewish community. And we will use our Jewish perspective, as those who have suffered at the receiving end of prejudice and hatred, as those who glide in and out of privilege, as those whose numbers include many races and backgrounds, to create the breath of life anew in this country, beginning with our streets and our city.