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.


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.

family properties.jpg

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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


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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Marni on the Fight for Detroit Schools

As a teacher, I know that education is the key to anyone’s future.  Everyone got to where they are today at least partially because of their schooling.  Many can remember a teacher who inspired them and helped shape who they are.   I chose to work in Detroit Public Schools because I believe in public education as a necessary part of ensuring a bright future for the next generation and for our city. Everyone deserves opportunities to succeed.  It starts in our schools.  And we have a lot of work to do to improve them.  I continue to fight for DPS, because I believe that the children and teachers of Detroit deserve a quality public school system.

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Why We Think It's Time to Care!

When I was a kid and had to stay home sick from school, my mom always made me the classic challah toast with cinnamon and sugar and we would watch movies together. When I got older, and had just gotten back from a Jewish youth group weekend and was overwhelmed with homework, every now and then I would take a day off school just to have a break. My mom called it a “mental health day.” Now, through the MI Time to Care initiative, I’m learning that not every child is blessed to have a parent that can stay home and care for them when they are sick, and not every adult has the flexibility or financial stability to take the day off if they or their children are ill. 

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Our upcoming DJJ Purim party promises to be as complex as the social issues we take on: the event will include a potluck banquet, a shpiel, a costume/dish contest, musical performances and a dance party.

Rabbi Alana shared that "we're taking inspiration from sister organizations in New York and Boston who have been doing raucous, politically poignant Purim parties for years, The holiday lends itself perfectly to talking about fighting injustice and the power of organizing. And it's super fun, which is so important for building community and doing justice work for the long haul.”

The 2016 shpiel, written by me, Phreddy Whischusen, and DJJ staff Blair Nosan, uses the story of Esther to highlight the water crises in Detroit and Flint. Phreddy shared that, “Last year’s shut-offs in Detroit and this year’s Flint crisis are intrinsically linked — to the Emergency Manager Law, It’s miraculous how a story that is over 2,000 years old seems better at demonstrating that connection than much of today’s media.”


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