Detroit Jewish News on Purim 2017

The Detroit Jewish News featured a nice write-up by DJJ leader Jordan Smellie on our recent Purim celebration:

This month, Jews from across Metro Detroit gathered in Hamtramck for a Purim party with a focus on public education. Detroit Jews for Justice put on the event to draw attention to the threats posed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other policy-makers — and to encourage the Jewish community to mobilize for education justice.

Read on here! Check out more photos from Purim here.


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Defeating Hamanism

You know you’ve made it when… someone writes an angry letter to the editor?!? Check it out:

“One Jewish group seems to be trying to remove Judaism from Purim, recently “updating” the Purim story as a social justice story about Flint water.” - Detroit Jewish News 3/1/17 (opinion)

First of all, last year’s Purim Spiel wasn’t about Flint. It was about Flint and Detroit
And second, Purim is impossible to “update”, because Purim is timeless: it reveals deep truths that only feel more and more relevant. 

Purim isn’t about defeating Haman, it’s about defeating Hamanism, a force in every generation.


We thought we couldn’t top last year, but what has followed Nov. 8 provides endless material and a profound need for revelry. Not escapism - but a safe framework for facing our worst fears, so many of which seem to be coming true. 

It’s hard to imagine anything more absurd than the reality we are living through: a climate-change denier heading the EPA? IMPOSSIBLE! An enemy of public schools is Secretary of Education? INCONCEIVABLE! Don’t get me started on Commander-in-Chief...

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Take Action Against H.R. Bill 610


Did our Purim spiel energize you to join the fight for education justice? Marni Falk (DPS teacher/activist & DJJ education justice liaison) invites you to take action against H.R. Bill 610! Read on for info from Marni about the bill and instructions for contacting Michigan reps.


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Take the Pledge: Stand In Solidarity with Immigrant, Arab & Muslim Communities

pledge_image.jpgMy name is Rachel Lerman and I’m a DJJ leader. As I’m sure most of you have heard, Trump released a revised version of the travel ban this week. Throughout these past few months, I often think of my grandparents and their experience coming to this country as immigrants: my grandmother came here in 1939 to escape Poland, and my grandfather survived Auschwitz and came here after the war. We must remember our shared stories and history - and take action to ensure that this country is a place where immigrants, refugees and Muslims are welcomed.

We are proud and privileged to live in a diverse state. Six percent of Michiganders are immigrants, with an undocumented community of over 100,000. We have the second largest Arab-American population in the country. We are among the top two states for resettlement of refugees, with over 2,000 Syrians joining our Michigan community in recent years.

As Michigan Jews, we must stand with our Muslim, Arab, immigrant, and refugee neighbors. Click here to take a pledge of solidarity.

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Winter Update: #jewishresistance

Since our last update we’ve seen the new administration start to make good on its terrifying promises. Muslims, trans and undocumented folks are being targeted and emboldened white supremacists are threatening Jewish communities.
But something else is happening:
New alliances are forming - full of hope and possibility.
We are reminded of Rev. Dr. King’s assertion that we are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”.
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Raising Awareness: T'chiyah Havdalah for Standing Rock

Copied below is a piece on the Thanksgiving Havdalah Rabbi Alana hosted for Standing Rock, written by Lily Grier for the Detroit Jewish News.

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B.L.A.C. Magazine: Closing the Black-Jewish Divide

In "Closing the Black-Jewish Divide in Detroit," DJJ organizer Eleanor Gamalski adds her insight to B.L.A.C. Magazine's conversation around race, Judaism, and the 50th anniversary of the 1967 rebellion in Detroit.

“I think everyone in the suburbs needs to have a more nuanced understanding of the disinvestment and police brutality and the housing crisis that lead to the rebellion and the ways that those forces continued to damage the city,” Gamalski says. “The decline was not marked by the rebellion.”

Read the full article here. Learn more about DJJ's event series exploring the 50th anniversary of the rebellion here.

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Demonstration at DTW

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Pharaohs & Prophets: Inauguration Day Reflection

The following letter was read at "A Call to Courage", Detroit - 1/20/17


Dear friends,

I'm sorry that I can't be physically present at this powerful gathering, and I'm so grateful to be present in spirit and in word. 

I'll be honest: sometimes I hate Torah. Too often it feels like I am raging against my inheritance more than I am nourished by it. This is not one of those moments - and I am so grateful. This is one of those moments that Torah gives me just what I need. Tomorrow, in synagogues around the world, Jews will read the beginning of the story of Exodus. We will chant: "Vayakom melekh chadash al Mitzrayim -- a new King arose over Egypt".... and thus begins, again, our formative story of moving from the narrow-straights of slavery to the wide plains of liberation. 

As Michael Walzer writes

“We still believe [...] what the Exodus first taught [...]: First; that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt; second; that there is a better place, [...] a promised land; and third, that the way to the land is through the wilderness. There is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.”

The meeting of this moment in our mythic history and this moment in our lived history is just what I needed. Through this chance miracle I remember: we've been here before. Our comrades at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice have been saying "5777 years of Jewish resistance -- we're ready already".


I would like to take this opportunity to honor the memory of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who died this week in Jewish time 45 years ago. When he marched with Rev. King in Selma he said "i felt as if my feet were praying".


A few days after the election, I posted:

I have never been more grateful to be both clergy and a community organizer.

Movement friends: if you don't have some wellspring from which to draw, start digging! There are rituals, stories, songs that can make you stronger. There are frameworks to help you feel a part of the long arc.

Faith friends: lace up your shoes, and roll up your sleeves - it's time to pray with those feet.


I leave you with the words Rabbi Heschel wrote to President Kennedy in 1963: 

"the hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity"


Many thanks & blessings -- see you in the streets!


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Coffee with Bernie!

A dose of inspiration to start 2017:

Over the weekend, our community organizer Eleanor and transit leader Bobby got together to talk DJJ at Avalon International Breads. Senator Bernie Sanders happened to walk in, en route to an Affordable Care Act rally in Warren later that day (attended by thousands of advocates.) 

They were psyched to meet him and share that they worked with a Jewish social justice organization. Bernie thought that was "fantastic". We hope we'll see him again down the road! Check out the link to Eleanor's FB post here.
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