This could have been the headline for last week’s announcement from the City of Detroit that it was extending the moratorium on water shutoffs through 2022 AND getting serious about finding a permanent solution to the issue of water insecurity that has plagued too many Detroit residents for at least 20 years.
But, as we contemplate this victory just as Chanukah begins, we know that miracles don’t “just happen”. The arc doesn’t just bend. Whether it’s the Maccabees or Detroit’s water warriors, collective strength is required for the bending and collective action creates the miracle.
[Image: 2018 Hanukkah DJJ Rally to Stop Water Shut-Offs & Implement Water Affordability]
5 years ago, Detroit Jews for Justice decided that our first major campaign would be the fight for safe, accessible, affordable water. The vision of water as a human right aligned with Jewish teaching and our joining a campaign led by grassroots communities fit our paradigm for the identity we intended to create as Jews: we follow the lead of our partners. As we state in our core values:
We honor the long and rich history of activism that has come before us. We build solidarity in our Jewish community for established and growing local movements, rather than creating our own. We are blessed to work with partners with vast knowledge and experience. We embrace the leadership of those who are directly impacted by injustice, as they are the best advocates for change. In particular, we seek to follow the direction of Detroiters, people of color, and low-income communities.
We are honored to celebrate today alongside the People’s Water Board, We the People of Detroit, Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry, Michigan Welfare Rights, and many other amazing partners who have worked tirelessly and tenaciously to stop the unconscionable practice of water shutoffs and to transform the dead end system of water payment assistance to one based on income affordability. Yesterday’s “miracle” is a huge step (but far from the last) in that direction.
Happy Chanukah to all!
-Lori Lutz, Barry Rubin, and the DJJ Water Team