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I Have To Leave Now!

Many Jewish leaders have been calling me about, taking a session on, or acting out intense feelings of needing to leave something now! It could be a relationship, the place where they live, their work or organizational commitments, or RC leadership. I often have these feelings myself. For me they are usually attached to my non-RC work. I experience them as an overwhelming feeling that what is going on[1] is unbearable and that “I have to leave now!”

At the recent Jewish liberation workshop in the northwest United States, I led a class on this theme. I talked about how historically Jews were kicked out of one country after another. Following the Holocaust, distress recordings got passed on about Jews not getting out quickly enough and needing to always be vigilant and ask, “Is it time to leave now?”

The one Jewish liberation issue that Harvey[2] and I struggled over was that of Jews in the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s and early 1980s—the period of the Soviet Jewry movement. The policy of the world Jewish community at that time was to get every Jew out of the Soviet Union. Harvey wanted a policy of Jews staying and fighting—supported by a strong Gentile allies’ movement—and their assuming that the Soviet Union could be a good place for Jews. (This was partly out of a desire not to collude with USers with anti-Soviet attitudes, who were only too willing to use Jews, by means of championing the Soviet Jewry movement, to “prove” how bad a place the Soviet Union was for anyone.)

In recent years I have come to see the wisdom in Harvey’s policy—that we want to build a safe place for Jews everywhere. As Jews, how do we decide when it is mostly our feelings of discouragement, fears of failure, or difficulty in facing hard feelings that are propelling us to want to leave something? The Simon and Garfunkle song says, “There are fifty ways to leave your lover.” There are many ways for us to leave a situation, or want to leave: We can leave. We can stay but check out[3] and not really be there. We can stay but stay on the fringe—another common Jewish pattern. Or we can stay but spend all of our time wanting to leave.

At the workshop I had everyone do a mini-session on the questions, “What situation brings up the feeling, ‘I have to leave now!’” and “What would you have to face and discharge in order to stay?”

On the last day of the workshop, I looked out at the wonderful sea of Jewish and ally faces and suddenly thought to myself, and then said to the group, “The Northwest is a good place for Jews.” Lots of people started to cry. I knew in that moment that it is a contradiction for us Jews to know in our hearts that the place we are in is a good place for us, a good place for Jews—that we don’t have to storm out or have a bag packed and be ready to leave.

Also, few of us Jews have been taught how to stay and fight. When things get hard (a challenging situation, overwhelming feelings), we often feel pulled to run, to find an escape route. Since our history has been one of being forced out, we have seldom gotten to learn that we can stay and fight, and fight to win. Some may recall the direction I put out many years ago for Jewish men in a relationship: “I close all the back doors and decide that you are the perfect person for me.” I am beginning to realize how many back doors all of us Jews have and what we would need to discharge to close them—and stay.

It might make sense to leave certain situations, relationships, or places. However, with the recording “I have to leave now” running so strongly, until we discharge a lot and re-evaluate, we can’t discern when it actually makes sense to go and when a recording of Jewish internalized oppression is propelling us to leave.

I ask all Jewish RCers to do a session on the following:

1)   What situations in your life (current or past) bring up intense feelings of needing to leave, needing to get out?

2)   Have you ever fought and stayed when you felt you wanted to leave? What did you have to discharge to do it?

3)   In a relationship, in your work, with your families, in your Jewish liberation leadership, where have you had to battle the feelings of wanting to leave or to keep all the back doors open? What has helped you to close the back doors and stay?

As Jews we deserve to flourish everywhere. We deserve to turn every place we live, love, and work into a place that’s good for Jews. 

Cherie Brown
International Liberation Reference Person for Jews
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Jews and from Present Time No. 153, October 2008, pp. 38-9


[1] Going on means happening.
[2] Harvey Jackins
[3] Check out means be mentally and emotionally absent.


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00