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Don't Turn Away

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The reality of what's been going on in Chicago has sunk in deep lately. People being murdered and beaten in the streets, dragged, handcuffed and TASER-ed -- it's unbelievable. Regardless of what your family looks like gathered around the dinner table, everyone needs to be talking about this.

Maybe they don't look like you. They don't look like me. The tragic statistics splashed day after day, the headlines, the graphic pictures and videos -- they are about black people suffering. And while my heart breaks, I recognize I have been granted a distance because I'm not black.

As a white person living where I live, I could pretend what's happening simply isn't happening. The sidewalks of my neighborhood look nothing like the streets of Chicago. Theoretically, I could just close my eyes to the whole disturbing mess. Except -- except for the conscience I was raised with would never allow me to turn a blind eye to the injustice and suffering of others.

My parents will admit they completely missed the boat in terms of raising me with a formal Jewish education, but they always said and continue to say, "We raised you with Jewish values. That's how you know you're truly Jewish." So here I am, with my Jewish conscience at its breaking point.

As Jews, our history knows the consequences of turned backs. The "not me, not mine" complacency allows for injustice and murder and everything in between. We can't just shake our heads and say, "What a travesty of justice! What a shame!" and think that changes anything. Well, I suppose we can. And this is where a fear begins to consume me. If "it" doesn't touch us, if the metallic taste of blood isn't in our mouths, are we forgetting?

As Jews, there is a thread between us and any people who are grouped in the pejorative and categorically denied, demoralized and disempowered. "Those" people are "us."

The difference is we can hide our "otherness" if we choose by tucking our Jewish symbols under our shirts. We can avoid being identified as Jews by putting our Jewishness on a hanger or by omitting our last names. We can walk down the street as if we are in the majority. Nobody need notice us if we don't want them to. We can hide. And hiding is seductive when things feel scary.

And things feel very scary right now, but we cannot hide in fear. We must be seen. We must join in the collective voices that demand justice. Because as Jews, we cannot ever, ever forget.

B' Shalom,


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