- Posted by Tali Puterman
- On February 6, 2020
- 0 Comments
Showing Up for Love: A Shabbat Tzedek with Yavilah McCoy and Temple Israel’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
By Tali Puterman, Assistant Director of Social Justice Engagement
In Temple Israel’s 1965 Religious School yearbook, Helaine Klein, a tenth grade student, wrote about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to TI’s Passover service. She painted an image of a hopeful audience swarming the foyer in anticipation. Loudspeakers were set up outside for those wishing to take part in the service. Dr. King, she wrote, spoke for 45 minutes with no notes. He spoke in a soft tone, and he spoke from his heart. Dr. King called on this community to stand up and fight against ignorance and racial oppression. As I sit here in Temple Israel and write this article for Insight in 2020, I see the faces of current Temple Israel students when I picture Helaine. I conjure their voices lifting up the words “Justice! Justice! Justice!” as nearly a thousand of us walked out of Friday night’s Shabbat Tzedek service, our Sabbath of Justice honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Their calls for justice still ring powerfully in my ears, like an echo from 1965.
During Saturday’s Torah Study and training, Yavilah McCoy, our honored guest this Shabbat Tzedek, invited us to “leave the land of the frozen chosen” and to embrace our sacred text through an anti-oppression lens. We should not view our biblical narratives as frozen in time, but rather we should ask how these narratives speak to contemporary issues of social justice. Yavilah challenged us to look at the Exodus text of Pharaoh’s daughter drawing Moses from the water through four levels of impact: Personal, Interpersonal, Systemic/Institutional, and Cultural. We were asked to reflect on the characters’ multiple roles as the Perpetrator, the Target, the Bystander, and the Ally. Most importantly, we were challenged to make it personal. When have you been Moses? Pharaoh? Pharaoh’s daughter? When have you been a target? A perpetrator? A bystander? An ally?
Just as we should “leave the land of the frozen chosen” in our biblical narratives, so should we also listen to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message as though we are standing with him at Temple Israel in 1965. We know that there is modern day racial injustice in Boston. We see it when the Boston Globe publishes a survey naming Boston the least welcoming major city to People of Color. We see it when we look at our segregated schools, our disproportionate wealth gap, and the underrepresentation of Black business leaders, health professionals, teachers, and public officials.
TI has been fighting these injustices beyond our Temple walls for generations. Now, I ask us to look within our own walls. I ask us to stand with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Temple Israel and respond to his call to fight against injustice, starting with our own synagogue community.
During Saturday’s training, Yavilah presented us with modern day scenarios of racial injustice. In small groups, we were challenged to talk through these scenarios using a lens of restorative justice: centering the principles of repair, encounter, and transformation. This was not just a powerful thought exercise, but a cause for concern because each of the scenarios given represent real-life examples of racism and intolerance in the Jewish community. This is a call to action. We need to open our hearts and minds and embrace radical welcoming for all people, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, age, or immigrant status. As Yavilah said on Friday night, justice and equality does not just land in our laps – we need to make a choice. We need to choose to see the uncomfortable, the trouble in our water. And when swimming in troubled water, we need to learn to swim differently. Yavilah invites us into this work through the act of love. To show up for love. When we show up for love we realize how we make people feel matters just as much our intent. When we love each other, it’s okay when we make mistakes and promise to do better next time. When we show up for love, we create a beloved community.
Temple Israel’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion is an ongoing process and calls on all of our participation. To learn more and/or to be kept up to date on this effort, please contact Tali Puterman at firstname.lastname@example.org.