by: Anna Kohn
As the former Director of the last freestanding synagogue over the past three-plus years, I’ve had an opportunity to witness a lot of the different Jewish movements around social justice in Detroit, but none were so close to my heart as that of December’s “Festival of Rights” sponsored by Detroit Jews for Justice.
A lot of my Jewish peers struggle with identity and purpose. Hell, even my non-Jewish peers struggle with identity and purpose. That’s the beauty of Detroit Jews for Justice. In the face of that struggle, DJJ offered me a safe space to express those social justice causes that I feel most connected to – and in the case of the “Festival of Rights,” I was so honored to be presenting a Jewish take on MY most passionate passion, prison reform. (Pirkei Avot 1:6) Yehoshua ben Perahia says “make for yourself a teacher, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person with the benefit of the doubt.” Because what if, in Judaism’s culture of community-oriented thinking, we as Jews, had not?
On January 26th, Rabbi Alana testified to the State Senate, opposing the resolution to support Gov. Snyder's proposition to halt the welcome of Syrian refugees to Michigan. You can read her testimony below.
I would like to thank the Governor and the legislature for the care you have shown the Jewish community. The memory of the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust are alive and well -- it’s traumas handed down from generation to generation, it’s aftershocks still reverberating. It means so much to us to have the State of Michigan proclaim Days of Remembrance. Here is an excerpt from your proclamation:
“WHEREAS, the people of Michigan should always remember the terrible events of the Holocaust and remain vigilant against hatred, persecution, and tyranny; [...] WHEREAS, the Days of Remembrance have been set aside for all people to remember the victims of the Holocaust as well as to reflect on the need for respect of all peoples; and [...]
Last month we were honored to be invited to Frankel Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield for their annual MLK, Jr. Day Assembly. DJJ Community Organizing Intern Eleanor Gamalski presented to the students about the Jewish tradition of working for social justice, and how DJJ hopes to be a part of that legacy. You can read her speech below.
Hello to everyone - thank you so much for hosting me in honor of the approach of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s one of my favorite days of the year and I think one of the most important. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to speak with you. I thought I’d start by talking a bit about the Jewish impetus to work against injustice, as well as Jewish involvement in social movements throughout history and here in metro Detroit. I’m also excited to tell you about the work we’re doing today with Detroit Jews for Justice.
By: Rachel Lerman
On November 10, 2015, workers and supporters in cities all around the country joined together to support the Fight for $15- a national campaign fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In Detroit, a large rally took place downtown in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center with over 300 people in attendance. A group of DJJ members met at the rally to stand in solidarity with workers, organizers and other faith groups who were there.
Last year, Rabbi Alana was invited to speak at a Michigan United Justice Assembly discussion on Police Accountability & Civilian Oversight. Her comments are included below.
It’s an honor to be sharing a few words with this powerful gathering
I was asked to speak on the theme of repentance.
Repentance is a concept which sounds a little foreign to Jewish ears…
The closest word we have for repentance is Tshuvah –
it means turning, or to return, or to go in the opposite direction
It operates on the assumption that the person doing t’shuva is GOOD,
good at their core;
that if they just turn around – RETURN,
then they will return to goodness and righteousness.
The word sin also does not translate easily to the Jewish faith.
it seems to assume intentionality.
Our word for sin, Chet, means “to miss the mark”
it assumes we meant to do right.
We aimed for goodness and we missed.