I saw an article yesterday with the headline “Don’t join this year’s Women’s March unless you’re good with anti-Semitism.” I support the self-determination of every woman to weigh in and decide whether the Women’s March is right for them, including the vibrant conversation about the place of Jews in this project.
And false choices like the one above are poisoning our work and moment.
In the past two years, I have watched Jewish and Muslim women proactively challenge law enforcement, terrorist groups and often, the polarizing politics and ideologies that have prevented our communities and institutions from jointly and effectively confronting white supremacy.
To abstain from this work of difficult conversations and value-based alignment at a time when the blood of our peoples is literally being strewn across the places we live, pray and find refuge, to me, seems impossible and worse, harmful.
I wonder what would have happened if the above people failed to coalesce across difference and act.
And the answer is: quite simply, absolutely nothing. We would have done nothing.
And really, pressuring, pigeonholing and shaming individuals or groups to change from the outside in the way the author of that headline advocates only serves to keep us further apart, as the forces of white supremacy grow more vociferous and vocal each day.
In Alberta, a member of a mainline political party literally put forth an argument that the pride flag is analogous with a swastika. And that was only twelve hours ago.
Additionally, by that headline’s standard, I am an anti-Semite, which is, given my whole life (Jewish) and the centre of my identity (the Jewish People), completely ludicrous. Curiously, it is exactly that kind of rhetoric that is alienating and silencing the hopes and works of other progressive Jews, who are committed to movements that answer the question of “liberation” with “that includes Jews, too.”
But I won’t give up. To me, the Torah is an unfolding and unrelenting liberation story. From the first Jew who smashed idols and went forth searching from his father’s house to the People that hesitated but then crossed the split sea to follow freedom’s mighty voice. To all the people in front of us today who stand on the brink of an abyss and who bravely answer, together: “We beg to differ.”
Our fears have not and cannot save us.
But our mutual toiling and struggling for good against the evil of indifference will.
Devon Spier is a rabbinical student, writer and compassion catalyst. She is currently a rabbinic fellow with Join for Justice, the Jewish Organizing & Training Network and in 2018, served as one of six rabbinical students selected for a summer fellowship by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. She is also the author of the bestselling Jewish poetry book: “Heart Map and the Song of Our Ancestors.”