I am still feeling so held, nourished and reenergized after our 7th annual Purim extravaganza! I am so honored to have celebrated with every last one of you. With the help of our community, we pulled off this legendary keystone event without a hitch. I can’t thank everybody enough for their respective contributions.
Big news! DJJ welcomes Elijah Silver!!
A special shout-out to those of you who are ensuring a healthy leadership transition through the Mountaintop Campaign. We’ve raised almost $250,000 in multi-year commitments– woohoo! This will allow our small but mighty staff to focus on developing our leaders and increasing our impact in the most critical grassroots coalitions in MI.
But we can’t stop there! We want to strengthen our educational offerings in the Jewish community, invest in the leadership of Jews of Color, and grow our base. Reach out to [email protected] to learn more about joining the Mountaintop Campaign and other ways you can support our work.
It’s been an incredible kavod/honor to help steward the Jewish-Justice community of Metro Detroit through this time of great growth and change. I can’t wait to see what happens next :)
We’re still processing the news that Jews at prayer were targeted in an antisemitic attack this past Shabbat.
We are so relieved that Rabbi Cytron-Walker and his congregants were able to escape with their lives. We send prayers, peace and healing to the victims of this horrifying incident, their families and the Dallas Jewish community at large.
Especially in the wake of antisemitic violence, we must remember our strength as well as our safety comes from community, solidarity and radical love. Jews, like all people, deserve to pray together safely. We are committed to imagining what safety looks like beyond increased policing in our shuls.
Jewish people across the country took solace in the outpouring of support for our community from our neighbors of other faiths. Indeed, the first colleagues to reach out to us locally were from the Muslim community.
We reject divisive attempts to hold an entire community responsible for the actions of one individual. It is evident through our work with partner organizations that violence in its many forms is fostered by white supremacy, systemic racism and economic oppression.
Times like these renew our need to understand the roots of this violence so we can build power to fight it. Join us on February 3rd at 7PM for an evening of discussion on how we can better understand and dismantle antisemitism in our communities.
Allie Zeff, Executive Director
Tu B'Shvat, the new year for trees, begins this Sunday night. Shevat is the name of the Hebrew month it falls in, while “Tu” means 15, so it really means the 15th of Shevat. The Talmud explains that Tu B’Shvat was chosen as this new year because it is the point by which most of the winter rains would have already fallen. The original purpose of this new year was just to mark Tu B'Shvat as the beginning of the tax year for anything related to fruit trees. For example, if a tree begins to flower before Tu B'shevat, it is tithed with the other produce of the previous year (exciting, right?).
As time went on, Tu B'Shvat gained additional levels of symbolism and significance. The Kabbalists of Safed in the sixteenth century made Tu B'Shvat even more important, even creating a Seder centralized around four cups of wine and many types of fruit. Over the past few decades, Tu B’Shvat has become known for celebrating trees and the environment.
Beyond that, a talmudic story about a fruit tree suggest additional messages regarding both environmental justice and the pursuit of justice as a whole.
The Talmud (Ta’anit 23a) tells the story about the early rabbinic sage Choni the Circle Maker (he’s called “Circle Maker” because, when he prays for rain, he draws a circle around himself, telling God that he won’t leave it until it rains). Choni comes across a man planting a carob tree and asks him how long it takes for a carob tree to grow and bear fruit. 70 years, he replies. Choni then asks him if he really thinks he’ll live long enough to enjoy it. The man responds that it doesn’t matter! His parents and grandparents grew trees for him to enjoy, so of course he will plant for his children and grandchildren too.
Soon afterwards, Choni eats and lies down to sleep. Somehow, he sleeps for 70 years (yes, Choni comes centuries before Rip van Winkle). When he wakes up, he walks over to that same carob tree, and he sees a man gathering carobs. Choni asks him whether he’s the same man who planted it. He responds that he is actually the man’s grandson. Choni then realizes that he had been sleeping for a very long time. Unfortunately, the story ends tragically when Choni discovers that his 70 year time jump has left him bereft of friends and companionship.
This Talmudic legend is loaded with meaning, but the image that stands out most is that of the carob tree. The man in the story plants it not for himself, but for future generations to enjoy.
The carob tree not only outlasts the man, it even outlasts Choni. It thus serves as a lesson to Choni to work towards creating a better world, even when we won’t be able to eat its fruits ourselves.
This is certainly not to suggest patience and moderation in the path towards justice (like the white moderates who frustrated Dr. King). Instead, the story reminds us that we need to act even if and when it is likely that we won’t see the difference we’ve made for decades. Even if we cannot eat the carobs ourselves, future generations will be thankful for the carob seeds we’ve planted many years before them.
The message of the tree is also important in light of yesterday’s attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. According to the prophet Isaiah, G-d declares that “the days of My people will be like a tree,” promising further that they won’t bear children “for terror.” Similarly, the Talmud compares the Jewish people to an olive tree. Just as the leaves of an olive tree never fall off, the Jewish people will never be wiped out.
While we seek to live free of terror, it cannot be at the cost of our solidarity with other marginalized people. It is only when we work together for justice that our existence as a people is most meaningful. Doing so attaches us to another eternal tree, that of the Torah: “It is a tree of life for all who embrace it.”
Group art by DJJ leaders
When I applied to the Jewish Communal Leadership Program (JCLP) at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, I was a participant in the Avodah service corps program in New York City. I hadn’t spent much time up until then in an intentional Jewish community that also aligned with my values, and I knew that after I finished Avodah, I would want to find that community in graduate school. Luckily for me, not only did I find that community in JCLP, but I also found it through my field placement at Detroit Jews for Justice.Read more
After conducting a thorough national search, we are thrilled to introduce DJJ’s new Executive Director: longtime leader and staff organizer, Allie Zeff. Allie has been an essential part of the leadership team that has helped grow and strengthen DJJ, positioning us to make a greater impact in the coming years.Read more
Over the course of the summer months, the Freedom and Thriving Team leaders banded together to create an incredible learning series arc, called the Direct Action Summer series. This series was aimed at bringing together members of the DJJ community to learn about collective action, showing up in activism spaces as a Jew, nurturing discomfort with direct actions, and empowering ourselves to participate in direct actions while representing DJJ.Read more
We are KVELLING over the recent article in GEEZ Magazine written by none other than our incredible Programs Associate for Racial Equity, Kendra!Read more
This past week we celebrated the festival of Sukkot. During Sukkot, Jews traditionally sit in huts called Sukkot and shake four species (the frond of a palm tree, citron, myrtle, and willow) as part of their religious services.
One of the major themes of the holiday is water.Read more