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.
Hayley and Hannah at the Pursuing Justice closing ceremony
We leaned into issues of race, immigration, voting, health care, and so much more! These core values that are at the foundation of strong, equitable communities - and that require a daily, redoubled, collective effort to protect, particularly in our national political climate.
I am so excited to continue the conversations and relationships that were sparked at this incredibly conference. While there were too many to recount, a couple sessions really stick out in my mind as worth unpacking further:
The first session I attended was specifically for white-identifying Jews at the conference. In an effort to better understand the intersection between our white and Jewish identities, we first did a group brainstorm of all of the ways that each of those identities either strengthened our community work or made it more difficult. One thing that stuck out to me is that we as Jews, particularly in social justice work, have so much anxiety. Anxiety about how people perceive us in the Jewish community, outside the Jewish community -- we're not Jewish enough, we're too Jewish, we can't relate to the struggle, we're not committed enough to the work, and so much more. We deeply want to be authentic partners in equity and justice, and we struggle with understanding how we fit within our Jewish and our social justice communities and how we bring our true selves to both. Consciousness around these questions is crucial, but when critical thought devolves into pervasive anxiety, it can actually impede our ability to do good work (and not to mention affect our mental health!) Being at the Bend the Arc Conference, an intra-Jewish space that both challenged and inspired, felt like the perfect place to care for ourselves in this way.
AJ participates in the workshop on White Jewish identity
I also attended a session with a panel of interfaith partners from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim backgrounds. This was a fascinating and important conversation - one that in this particularly xenophobic political climate, we need to be having more often. The panelists spoke about how their personal faith, leadership in their congregation, and social justice values seemed to interact seamlessly - because for them, they all flow from the same space. This was a refreshing and challenging model, because in our often fairly conservative Detroit Jewish community, I have struggled to bring my progressive values into my Jewish communal spaces. The panel helped me explore how I can encourage my community to see alignment between our faith and the important progressive policy issues that I am passionate about. I am excited to continue to bring these questions and stories of success into my work on a local level.
If any of this piques your interest, please, please join our Detroit Jews for Justice community. It is a space to examine our Jewish community's past, present, and future role in partnering around equity and justice - and participate in some direct actions and organizing around this goal. Plus, there's just some bad-ass, wonderful, inspiring people to hang with - and we always have snacks!
Hayley is originally from West Bloomfield, and is now a resident of the Detroit City Moishe House in Indian Village. She is a member of the DJJ Organizing Team. To partner with or learn more about Moishe House, visit them on Facebook or contact Hayley at HayleySakwa@gmail.com.