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A Wonderful Young Jews Workshop

I recently attended a wonderful Young Jews Workshop led by Emily Bloch and Cherie Brown.1 I was so excited for it because I wanted to work on Jewish terror with other young adults. (My terror is often most accessible around other Jews, and I’m most relaxed and myself around young adults.) The combination of Cherie’s class on being “totally and completely kind, tender, and generous with ourselves and others where we or they have distress” and Emily’s class on terror, choices, rigid integrity, and young people and young adults was powerful for me! It gave me perspective on where I struggle and how I can be completely compassionate with myself and others. Emily and Cherie modeled complete tenderness in their explanations and counseling.

I took away a deeper understanding of anti-Jewish oppression and how to contradict it. Anti-Jewish oppression sets up2 Jews to have distress and then targets us for showing it. For example, in the past Jews were not allowed access to most types of work; they could only lend money (other religions outlawed lending money with interest). Then they were blamed for being “greedy.” Another way of putting it is that Jews get oppressed, we internalize it, and then everything goes badly. For example, a lot of people have tried to kill us, we’ve internalized that hurt and developed distress recordings that say that everyone is out to get3 us, and then some of us overreact to anything that (understandably) restimulates that recording.

We also turn on each other the internalized message that Jews should be separated or kicked out. We abandon other Jews when they hurt others or go against our own ethics due to their distress. Cherie and Emily invited us to contradict that by getting close to the most “unappealing” Jew and deciding that we would have other Jews’ backs4 when they take a stand, even if they don’t get it right all the time. This doesn’t mean endorsing oppressive behavior, but it does mean continuing to see and love them and hold up their core goodness.

Upper- and middle-class Jews sometimes think that they’ve found a life of integrity in LGBTQ5 liberation or Palestinian solidarity. My choosing to take on6 in my early twenties a person-of-color identity (I’m a mixed-race Jew of the global majority) was about trying to find a way to have integrity and not feel so bad about myself. In one of my support-group sessions, I worked on reclaiming the person-of-color identity not as a way out of despair or self-hatred but as a personal choice for me, regardless of what anyone thinks.

I wanted to get some perspective on Israel-Palestine struggles, to not feel like I was going to die every time I was on social media, or like my activist friends would kick me out and attack me if I spoke up. My survival strategy had been numbness and avoidance—for example, not reading anything too deeply. Cherie explained that most of the wide world has a variation on one of two views when it comes to Israel-Palestine: (a) Jews and Israelis have no distress and are always totally justified, everything is fine, and saying anything against the Israeli government’s behavior is anti-Jewish, or (b) Israel (and all Jews by association) is totally messed up, deeply oppressive for absolutely no reason, and so Israel (and Jews) should be eliminated.

Obviously both views have significant distresses attached to them. As RCers we know that we can be for both peoples and for unity and peace, but internalized anti-Jewish oppression can make it incredibly hard to take a stand for a different way of thinking. At a table for people active or thinking about becoming active in the Israel-Palestine struggle, Cherie had each of us share what we were doing or thinking about doing and where we could use some extra support.


In the two days after the workshop I had conversations about Israel-Palestine with more than five people. On the plane ride home I had a three-hour conversation with a raised-Catholic white woman in her sixties who was married to a Jewish man. Talk about7 post-workshop attention! The moment she sat down, she said to me, “You just seem so open and friendly.” Early in the conversation we spoke about things we had really different viewpoints on, like Israel-Palestine, yet we were both able to tell8 how much we liked each other and stay connected. (Before the workshop, there was no way I could have stayed so connected with someone who was telling me she didn’t have any sympathy for Palestinians.) We talked (not argued) for another two and a half hours. It was pretty cool9 to talk about our visions for the world and our dreams and goals for ourselves.

It was also awesome to have post-workshop attention for my parents. Besides Jewish liberation, I moved on some owning-class, Asian-heritage, and “mental health” liberation issues with them. It was challenging, exhilarating, illuminating, and ultimately connecting.

This past weekend I went to the North American Asian Liberation Workshop where I attended a topic table and a topic group on Muslim liberation (for Muslims and allies). My highlight was hearing about a long history of connection between Muslims and Jews (especially pre-World War I) and taking the direction that “I’m not inventing connection; I’m recovering it!”

"Bobby Tamara"
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of Jews

1 Emily Bloch is the International Liberation Reference Person for Young Adults. Cherie Brown is the International Liberation Reference Person for Jews.
2 “Sets up” means creates the conditions for.
3 “Get” means hurt.
4 “Have other Jews’ backs” means protect and support other Jews.
5 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer
6 “Take on” means adopt, assume.
7 “Talk about” means I certainly had.
8 “Tell” means notice.
9 “Pretty cool” means quite wonderful.

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00