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We Must All Stand Together

This past Sunday I attended a gathering called “Uniting Communities Against the Politics of Hate” at a local Presbyterian Congregational Church. My husband and several friends came with me to support a woman from my synagogue who was speaking on a panel, representing the local Jewish community. There were also representatives from the Hispanic and immigrant communities, the GLBTQ community, Black Lives Matter, the Muslim community, and several others.

Each speaker had five minutes to talk. Then audience members were invited up to ask questions or make comments. I was very scared and shook by myself as I realized that I wanted and needed to speak. I then took my place in the line, and spoke.

I spoke because only six Jewish people had shown up for the event, out of two hundred attendees. I spoke because while our synagogue member had spoken well about some events that had happened, I didn’t feel that anti-Semitism and the role of allies had been addressed as fully as it could be. I also spoke to share about myself learning to be an ally at a Black Lives Matter march, as a white Jewish middle-class woman.

I said to first notice that when swastikas had been drawn at several locations on several occasions, allies had stood up to say “no.” In one instance, a group of community members had helped to wash down the sidewalk where the swastika was drawn, and had then drawn the letters L O V E. I spoke about how important allies can be. I also spoke about the five hundred people who had held a silent vigil in front of the entrance to our local Jewish Community Center, as a show of support and solidarity after a second bomb threat had been called in. I spoke about how important we are to each other.

I then spoke about going to my first Black Lives Matter march, not knowing exactly what my role should be but knowing I needed to be there. I spoke about how an older African American man had asked me, “Why are you here?” and I had answered, “I am not sure, but I am here because I knew I had to be here,” and how he had begun to cry, and we’d held hands and marched together, crying together.

I then spoke about how we may be pitted against each other as part of oppression but that we are all allies and that one oppression isn’t worse (or better) than another. I said that anti-Semitism and racism and classism will be used to split us apart and that we must all stand together.

Several members of the congregation (mostly white older adults) came up to me to thank me for speaking up. And the facilitator of the event announced that they were putting up sheets where “responders” could sign up so that if an act of racism, or anti-immigrant oppression, or anti-Semitism should happen, people would come together to protect, try to correct what had been done, and support each other with song, prayer, and action.

I suspect that there will be many more gatherings like this, where I hope to bring myself and our vision as RCers.

Pamela Faith Lerman

Albany, New York, USA

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

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00