Discharging About Muslims, in My Jewish Support Group

I am a light-skinned Jewish Arab first-generation-USer female with a father from Morocco, and I lead a Jewish support group.

A few years ago at an Arab workshop, Azi[1] counseled us on our earliest memories of Muslims. We had little attention for each other (falling asleep, getting impatient). I decided that to end the wars we are engaged in and to have the life I want, Arabs need to develop more slack for each other in this area. And my own Jewish support group is a place I have influence!

I have been leading the group for several years. A few weeks ago I led it on ending Islamophobia and being close with Muslims. As usual, we began by saying a completely and totally Jewish “new and good.” (As Midwestern U.S. Jews, we often feel we are not the right kind of Jew. I use the “new and good” as a contradiction,[2] to remind us that everything we do in our life is exactly a beautifully perfect Jewish thing for a great Jewish person to do.)

Then we did a go-around on “Where do you feel at home (either a person or a place)?” Then we did a mini-session. When we returned, I briefly alluded to things going on[3] in the world that could be an excuse to feel that we do not have homes. Many of us carry that chronic feeling, which gets manipulated to serve the causes of nationalism, colonialism, and imperialism. I said I wanted us to be solid in our minds that we have homes, that we are at home in our relationships, and that there are no natural limits on whom we get to have as close friends and allies. I talked about one of my favorite quotes from Harvey[4]—that if a Jew calls out, Gentiles must leap over mountains to come to his or her aid. By modeling this kind of ally, we can be confident that the Inquisition or the Holocaust will not happen again.

The cool[5] thing about reality and connection is that they don’t wait for us to be able to feel they are reality. They persist, so it’s okay if we can’t tell[6] that we are home, or safe. It’s still true.

I did the mini-session with a young Puerto Rican Jewish woman and discharged on counseling people on their earliest memories of Muslims. I wanted to be thoughtful that I didn’t sink myself[7] or martyr myself for the white people’s re-emergence but instead moved my own liberation agenda forward. I also wanted us to be honest that we don’t yet have a lot of attention here, as either client or counselor. We don’t need any pretense.

In the closing, many people said that they were surprised at how few sessions they’d taken on being allies to Muslims. Their excitement, hopefulness, and relief were palpable.

I used to get migraines after leading this group, which is almost always all white, because I was terrified of people’s racism toward Arabs, their Islamophobia, and the genocide we’ve internalized as Jews. Then I started to have someone come before and stay after to counsel me on the early distresses and how I want to continue leading white Jewish people. I continue to successfully lead the group—now without migraines!

Jna Shelomith
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA


[1] Azi Khalili, the International Liberation Reference Person for South, Central, and West Asian-Heritage People
[2] Contradiction to the distress
[3] “Going on” means happening.
[4] Harvey Jackins
[5] “Cool” means good, wonderful.
[6] “Tell” means notice, feel.
[7] “Sink myself” means submerge myself in distress. 

 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00