Rabbi Alana Schmoozing with Carl Levin at "Pursuing Justice"

Rabbi Alana had the delight of sitting down with former Michigan Senator Carl Levin for a fireside chat at the opening ceremony of "Pursuing Justice 2016", Bend the Arc's first national conference!

Sadly missing from the video is the rabbi asking Carl Levin about Detroit Jewish geography (their shared connection to Central High School through her grandma) and their one degree of separation through DJJ'nik Andy Levin (Carl's nephew!)

Check out the lovely conversation - full of laughs and Detroit love - here!

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Hayley on Experiencing "Pursuing Justice 2016"

As you may have read from previous blog posts, Detroit Jews for Justice rolled A DOZEN DEEP (!!) to the first-of-its-kind Bend the Arc national conference "Pursuing Justice", where 500 Jewish people from all walks of life came together to examine and fight for the progressive values that are so rooted in our Jewish identities. 

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Hayley and Hannah at the Pursuing Justice closing ceremony

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Rabbi Alana at the SEIU Convention!

That one time that Rabbi Alana blessed 3000 union members....

In May, she gave the opening invocation at the Service Employees International Union convention at Cobo Hall! She was so honored to represent justice-seeking Jews and show our support for the labor movement.

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The Wheels on the Bus

This post is by 8th grader Avery Long - reflecting on DJJ's Bus Tour with Rich Feldman on Sunday May 15th!

I was invited on DJJ's Boggs Bus Tour by a friend and classmate of mine – we both attend The Roeper School. When I arrived, I was welcomed with open arms by Rabbi Alana. We had an opportunity for written reflection about the “story of Detroit” we were bringing with us to the tour, and we met our tour guide Rich Feldman – a long time leader in Detroit's movements for social change and a close friend of Grace Lee Boggs.

The six places we stopped were each places I'd never known existed, and they became the backdrop for Rich Feldman's vivid description of a whole host of philosophical and practical implications for Detroit's current moment. We stopped at The Packard Plant, The Poletown Plant, The Hope District, The Heidelburg, Earthworks, and C.A.N Art Landworks. At each sight, Rich facilitated a discussion with us (we mostly stayed on the bus because IT WAS COLD).

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DJJ @ Bend the Arc!

A dozen DJJ leaders are in our nation's capitol with over 400 other Jewish activists for "Pursuing Justice", the first National Conference of Bend the Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice.

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A special shout-out to Lori Lutz for putting a ton of loving work into organizing the participation of this awesome cadre.

We're excited to be spending 3 days learning, building relationships, and making our voice heard in Washington -- and we're looking forward to bringing our experience back home!

 

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Digging into Race and Real Estate!

I first read Family Properties while living in Ann Arbor, studying Urban Planning. It served as a catalyst for conversations about housing policy, what it means to fight for justice, and how my own Jewish identity is related to the systems that dictate how our cities grow, shrink, and change. It gave me a human understanding of how land contracts, red-lining, and ‘block busting’ affected specific people and populations in Chicago.   While this book is based in and about Chicago, there are many parallels to our fair city. The human touch and personal story in this book has informed the way that I understand Detroit’s past and present moment.

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Purim Wrap Up

When the newly formed ACCB team met to plan DJJ's first annual Purim Extravaganza in January, ideas were flying around the room.  We were envisioning a deconstructed multi-roomed instillation, an epic journey through the megillah and through the injustices that plague our generation.  In short, we were thinking BIG.

When we moved from the ideas to the action, we realized we were going to have to scale back and focus - that acts of creation require patience and persistence, boundaries and sacrifice, as much as they require imagination and visionary thinking.  As we mulled over the themes of Esther’s story, we were struck by how easy it would be to make Haman the focus of our shpiel, and to depict our modern day leaders as the infamous evil, plotting villain.  But we all started to agree that this would be too simple, that to tell a story of triumph that depicts injustice as the evil inclination of a solitary individual would be to miss the whole point of the story - the systemic critique embedded in Megillat Esther, hidden behind the hoops and hollers of a crowd trying to blot out Haman’s name, became the impetus for Pure Shushan - a uniquely Michigan Purim story.

 

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Burn it Up: A Pre #ActOnPassover Reflection

Rabbi Alana Alpert delivered these remarks before the board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit

Last week during our monthly Brunch & Learn at Congregation T’chiyah, I brought a series of commentaries on the concept of Chametz -- different ideas about the meaning of the Passover practice of cleaning, burning, and refraining from leavened bread. I shared a number of different ideas, many of which, inspired by the chassidic tradition, spiritualize the practice. For example, the Baal Shem Tov understands chametz as anger, pride and arrogance. I heard a resounding rejection of these interpretations. Folks argued that such self-help interpreted the practice in ways that were far away from the core message of the holiday, which is, as the Torah says: “Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt…”

The T’chiyah community prides itself on its orientation towards social justice. So they challenged me to think hard about the relationship between this practice and our commitment to justice and freedom.

The practice of ridding ourselves of chametz seems to me to be a very personal practice. As opposed to so much of our liturgy, the language is singular and not plural. At the end of the ritual of bedikat hametz, the search that happens the night before the holiday, we recite:

“Any hametz that is in my possession and that I have not  seen, that I have not observed, that I have not removed, and that I do not know about shall hereby be annulled and shall become ownerless like dust of the earth.”

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The Passover Story is Not Over #Fightfor15

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A shortened version of a speech delivered on Thursday in front of hundreds of fast food workers and their supporters.

I’m Rabbi Ariana Silverman and I’m here with Detroit Jews for Justice.

I know that the Bible obligates employers to be fair to their workers.  In the book of Deuteronomy we read “Do not oppress the hired laborer who is in need, whether he is one of your people or one of the sojourners in your land within your gates. Give him his wages [in the daytime,] and do not let the sun set on them, for he is poor, and his life depends on them, lest he cry out to God about you, for this will be counted as a sin for you.”

Today we are crying out.  Some of us cry out in the words of our faith traditions, for we believe that treating workers unfairly is truly a sin against God. All of us cry out in the shared language of justice. We are crying out with the simple demand that workers are paid a fair wage of $15/ hour.  We cry out with workers across the globe to demand that companies like McDonald’s use their power to lift up workers instead of dragging them down.  We are crying out because we know that when we do, we all will win.

 

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Gov. Achashverosh Reflects on Pure Shushan!

In the summer of 2010 in Montrose, PA I attended a film screening on “Gasland,” a documentary about hydro-fracking (gas drilling). At the end of the film, a farmer stood up with a jug of “water” from home, which resembled liquefied poop more than it did water. It was terrifying to learn how vulnerable our communities are.

At DJJ’s Purim Shpiel on Thursday March 31st, we retold the story of Esther to be a modern day story of water as a human right, and drew on the themes of power, sovereignty, and activism we saw in the megillah. The shpiel was called Pure Shushan, a riff on the well known Michigan ad campaign - Pure Michigan.  In essence, it sought to shed light on how our communities’ health rests on what our legislators seemingly fail to understand.  How can we live in a time when using corroded old pipes is ok? How can we live in a time when residents' water is shut off while back-tax owing corporations are allowed to keep functioning, business as usual?  How can our leaders stand by when hydro-fracking results in jugs in farmers' water supplies turning into liquefied poop?

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