Watch the whole thing! But if you want to make sure to hear R. Alana speak, skip to 1:07.
"When the poor people’s campaign came to Washington DC in 1968, 49 years ago, they approached a Jewish Community Center in downtown asking that the building’s showers be made available. The community center rejected the request -- and the story could have ended there. But a group of young rabble-rousers known as Jews for Urban Justice threatened a “pray in”, and the building was opened to the public. This victory meant the campaign gained some structural support -- a tiny step. But it means more to me. To me it means that ancient tradition can be harnessed by activist youth to push their community to participate most important movement work their time.
It was this action that brought New Left activist Arthur Waskow into relationship with his Judaism. He went on to become a rabbi, and It was Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s teachings that compelled me to not give up on my community and my tradition. Here I am, 15 years after discovering his teachings, leading Detroit Jews for Justice, a new organization inspired by the legacy of Jews for Urban Justice, who 50 years ago forced their community to share its resources with the Poor People’s Campaign.
L’dor vador - from generation to generation. Who knows what chain of events will come from the brave actions we take today?
Today we are being called into a new iteration of a movement that was launched 50 years ago. A tender & powerful moment in Detroit, as we commemorate the 50th year of the rebellion. 50 years is jubilee - a time of radical renewal.
On the jubilee we blow the shofar.
Tradition teaches: 10 things were created bein hashmashot - on the eve of the 1st sabbath at twilight. In this liminal moment, on the cusp of the days of struggle and the day of peace, God creates the ram. Why the ram?
When the biblical God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, it seems inevitable --
Abraham can see no other way. It isn’t until his child is bound on the altar, that he looks up to see a ram, caught in the thicket. Not just any ram -- the primordial ram! The ram that was always there, if he would only see it.
The shofar announcing the 50th year calls us back to that moment of seeing -- of realization that there is another way. We are not bound to a fate outside of our control. The ram was always there, hiding -- just out of sight.
There is an alternative,
a better ending,
a new beginning,
a chance to change course.
Forces want us to believe this is the way it will always be -- that the giant triplets of racism, militarism, materialism are essential to who we are as human beings. But it’s not true -- the economic systems we live in are not natural, they did not have to be.
We sound the shofar to cry: there is another way!
The Prophet Isaiah calls to us: קְרָא בְגָרוֹן אַל-תַּחְשֹׂךְ, כַּשּׁוֹפָר הָרֵם קוֹלֶךָ
Cry out full-throated, don't hold back; lift your voice like a shofar.”
--- we cry out that another world is possible.
May we be blessed to help bring it about.