Like all Jewish Holydays, Tisha b'Av's potency is not in some event that happened a long time ago and in a land far away. It is in highlighting something that is (in this case, painfully) part of the human experience and happening in the present time.
Tisha b'Av is about the loss of Home, exile, destruction, unimaginable suffering, the attempts to honor that pain, and the struggle to see hope beyond it. This Tisha b'Av Detroit Jews for Justice gathered to commemorate Jewish experiences of suffering, and use the fire of our pain to light up the ways in which Black people and entire communities are being unfairly persecuted, imprisoned, torn apart, and murdered.
We prayed, and sang. We read ancient Jewish hymns as well as modern reflections about black lives lost. Importantly, the afternoon of Tisha b'Av, symbolically the most painful moment of the psycho-spiritual calendar, is also said to be the time when the Messiah (or at least, their potential) was born. Moreover, it marks the start of a seven-week period of reflection and preparation for Rosh HaShanah. Consequently, amidst our mourning, we also reflected on the actions we have the potential and privilege to take in making our country a safer and more dignified one for every human being.
As a physical expression of this commitment, we made a banner with the words "May their lives be a blessing," in honor of the black lives lost, which will stay with the community through Rosh HaShanah and future events of community-building, mourning, protest, and allyship.
Rabbi Alpert explained that this ritual was designed to strengthen our resolve and deepen our commitment to act for racial justice and against police violence in the coming year. Passing around a bowl of figs, we used the reflections of a partner to offer them a blessing -- whatever blessing they personally will need in order to show up fully in this moment in this moment in Civil Rights history.
Here is one of the powerful pieces that was shared -- from our friends at Jews for Racial & Economic Justice in NYC.
Moshe Givental is a former psychotherapist, currently in his last year of Rabbinic School at Hebrew College, in Boston. He grew up in metro Detroit and is a new DJJ'nik.