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‘I mourn my Jewish community, which seeks to justify these inexcusable acts’

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 Bay Area If Not Now When action (photo:  Susannah Nachenberg)
Bay Area If Not Now When action (photo:If Not Now)

This morning, I stood with a group of young Jews coming together through #IfNotNow to block the entrance to the Jewish Federation/Jewish Community Relations Council building, two of the largest Jewish institutions in the Bay Area, to mourn lives lost in this most recent Gaza massacre, through performing shiva, the Jewish mourning ritual.

We were there to demonstrate our dissent for the American Jewish institutional response to the violence, which continues to blindly support the state of Israel without acknowledgement of the immense suffering and disproportionate lives lost in Gaza.

We read the names of Palestinians and their stories. Some were medics, journalists and children, in some cases entire families. Every name matters.

And many of us spoke about why we chose to stand up and speak out. One participant talked about his family’s experiences in the Holocaust. He explained that no amount of violence, of killing of civilians, is going to bring about security. That in order for this cycle of violence to end, we must support a just peace and an approach rooted in nonviolence and in the spirit of two main Jewish values we were taught: 1) wrestling with and questioning in the face of difficult situations and 2) all human life is precious.

Several weeks ago, when the death toll was around 600, I took part in a similar mourning ritual and now, weeks later, I continue my mourning, as the casualties reach over 2,000, mostly civilians, over 700 of which are women and children.

I am not however just mourning for the lives lost on both sides, but I’m also mourning the state of my American Jewish community, which seeks to justify these inexcusable acts, straying away from the social justice spirit of tikkun at the foundation of Judaism.

“If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

This quote from Hillel the elder was written on the outside of the JCRC building. Until these institutions heed this call and stand up against violence and oppression and take a stand that supports the dignity and freedom of all people, we will continue to raise our voices as a growing number of Jews in rising up for justice and equality for all in exclaiming, “The JCRC and Jewish Federation does not speak for me. End the Occupation and End the Siege!”

 Bay Area If Not Now When action (photo:  Susannah Nachenberg)
Bay Area If Not Now When action (photo:If Not Now)
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The title is a quote. Who said it? (it’s not in the article)

Great comment at haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.611184 “• For people who are so worried about a possible drop in the Jewish population o By Reuben Jacobs, London o 19 Aug 2014 o 08:41PM all that needs to happen is go back to the Solomonic era rules when it was easy to become Jewish. Nowhere in the Torah does it say that it should be difficult to become Jewish. This is a modern ghetto rule, made to appease… Read more »

Thank you Susannah, If Not Now, and JVP.

There is strength in solidarity– especially when working for justice. Mourning is also critical, as it is a manifestation of respect, and the responsibility of many of us.

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Susannah, thanks for writing and sharing your journey with MW.

Wonderful article, wonderful action. As a Christian, I want to echo your sentiment, I am “…also mourning the state of my American [Christian] community…” many of whom also “[seek] to justify these inexcusable acts, straying away from the social justice spirit of tikkun at the foundation of Judaism”AND Christianity. Nothing separates people more than “religion.” Nothing brings people together than recognizing every individual’s humanity.