- Posted by Guest Author
- On November 23, 2018
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By Dru Greenwood, Co-Chair of the TI-GBIO Core Team
It’s the eve of Thanksgiving, and I’m feeling grateful, not only for dear family and friends, but for the amazing community we wove over the past year right here at Temple Israel and through our engagement with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO).
Last spring on behalf of the TI-GBIO Core Team, Michael Rubenstein and I invited you to participate in community conversations, and you did–176 of you.
We know each other differently now because we each took a risk and shared our deeply held concerns–personal experiences of unaffordable or inaccessible healthcare, an unjust criminal justice system, racism, unfair treatment of immigrants, gun violence, unaffordable housing, climate injustice…. Those were precious stories and our telling of them helped shape what happened next.
First, as Jews do, we listened. Because we knew what we cared about, TI leaders like Michael Rubenstein, who now co-chairs the GBIO Healthcare Issue Team, could bring that knowledge to GBIO circles with leaders from sister GBIO congregations who also have listened in their congregations. Together they researched what’s possible now to move the needle on problems of common concern and then initiated negotiations with those who can make it happen.
And second, again as Jews do, we cared and took responsibility to act together. In July, 27 of us attended a GBIO Delegates’ Assembly to explore and solidify direction for the way forward. In August, 58 of us joined a GBIO Action to learn the position of Suffolk and Middlesex District Attorney candidates on issues of fairness in the criminal justice system so that we would be able to hold them accountable if elected. In September, 13 of us attended a GBIO Summit for issue updates and turnout training in anticipation of a big October pre-election Action; and another 14 of us took part in a GBIO New Ideas Forum to learn how to build power on a particular actionable issue that we can build on in the future.
Finally, on October 22, invited and organized by a team of 16 TI members, 136 of us traveled to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) to celebrate 20 years of GBIO and to act to hold responsible public officials seeking election on healthcare, criminal justice reform, local Roxbury concern for a safe park, and the Massachusetts-wide and national concern for protection of immigrant families. Read more here.
Were we effective? Yes, our power was recognized and we propelled incremental steps toward change:
- A GBIO clergy team, including Rabbi Zecher, will meet in the next weeks with Attorney General Maura Healey to promote strategies for protection of immigrant families
- Negotiations are continuing between the Attorney General’s office and leaders of the proposed Beth Israel-Lahey merger to contain costs and expand access to healthcare (stay tuned)
- New leaders Firdosa Hassan of the mosque and Steven Mitchell of the nearby Timilty Middle School, with all of GBIO standing with them, assured that Jeep Jones Park in Roxbury has a powerful advocate in Boston City Council member Kim Janey
Perhaps most important, we were changed.
“It was amazing to stand with so many people from our local community to show that we care about justice and the public good. The diversity of GBIO stood out to me – people of various religions, races, ages, neighborhoods, classes, and nationalities came together to make meaningful change and to hold our elected officials accountable. I felt like I mattered. I felt like I was part of something bigger. I feel energized and ready to move forward into further action.” – Laura Guggenheimer (Riverway and TI-GBIO Core Team)
“What stood out for me? The Action was interfaith: what a refreshing contrast to what we are exposed to daily in politics and in the news. And TI leadership. If we were not the largest group we were close to it; makes me proud to be a member!” – David Banash (first-time participant)
“The GBIO 20th anniversary event was inspiring. This Jewish woman knows very little about Islam and was intrigued and moved to be at the Mosque. And I found the imams and other clergy very accessible. I am hoping to attend a Friday service there soon since I understand those are wonderful.” – Cathleen Cavell (first-time participant)
“I was inspired by the elected officials who spoke. I learned more about their relationships to the different positions.” – Sam Schneider (religious school parent and TI-GBIO Core Team)
“I am always in awe of the diversity of the gathering when GBIO puts out the call to action. The excitement and energy in the room before we began was palpable–old friends and colleagues meeting up and new introductions being made across/above religious, color, economic and cultural differences.”
“The candidates who came show their respect for the electorate–our system at its best. Those candidates who chose not to show up give themselves away as not taking us as voters seriously.”
“The breadth of religious institutions, individuals and communities showing up together is always a wonderful show of strength and commitment by each individual who took the time to come out that night. And to vote, ring doorbells, and challenge our candidates and elected officials to be their very best for the community.” – Marc Maxwell (Vice-President, Temple Israel)
Speaking personally, I’ve gained experience and understanding and hope through our practice with GBIO this year, beginning with intimate conversations that knit bonds of caring and moving toward action on behalf of justice in the wider world. I also intuit that I’m not alone. Through intensive work, 1,300+ GBIO people showed up together at the mosque to speak with and hold accountable those elected to serve the common good. But then, only 12 days later, following the tragedy in Pittsburgh, when our hearts were breaking at the hateful attack on fellow Jews, what happened? The wider interfaith community with whom we stood in action at the mosque showed up again. They knew us; they responded by standing with us for Shabbat services. Their leaders blessed us with the words of many traditions; they all blessed us with their presence.
Are we done? Of course not. The practice of democracy, as the practice of Judaism, is just that–a practice. Listening to the cry of injustice; responding because we are a community. I’m grateful.
Ben Poor, Co-Chair of the TI-GBIO Core Team
Barbara Berke (GBIO Strategy Team), Rabbi Serena Fujita, Fran Godine (GBIO Executive Strategy Team), Ted Greenwood, Laura Guggenheimer, Anne Licciardello, Cindy Rowe, Michael Rubenstein (GBIO Healthcare Team), Sam Schneider, Sandy Wixted
Staff: Rabbi Matt Soffer, Tali Puterman