This post originally appeared in the September Iton Tziyon, Mount Zion's monthly bulletin.
I am lucky to be alive. Both my parents were born in Germany. Their parents left Germany, dragging my 5-year-old mother and 10-year-old father with them. My extended family knew the value of yitziat mitzraim/ leaving Egypt, when they boarded the boat to America and entered an unknown city with what they had in their suitcases.
Why did my grandparents decide to leave everything to go to America when 6 million others did not? In the top drawer of my dresser lies a tape of a conversation I had with my grandmother when I was 12 years old. She said she was feeling uncomfortable living in Germany. Many of the things that she enjoyed doing were being limited. So she took the plunge and traveled with her husband and my mother to New York City to start a new life.
At different points throughout our history, the Jewish community has known how it felt to be marginalized and singled out instead of being accepted into society. As a Jew, I feel it is my responsibility to work to create the world as it should be, lifting up each individual and their community to illuminate their gifts I have witnessed history repeating itself, and not always in the best way.
How can we, as Jews, create the world we would like everyone to live in, not only those who look like us or think like us, but for everyone? I believe that the Jewish community can come together, braiding our collective experience of oppression, our appreciation of the stranger and our desire to repair the world to create relationships that build a place where everyone is “in” and no one is on the outside. To do this, we must organize our community and work together with others side by side.
Everyone is a teacher and a student. Every day I learn from others. When we share our stories we grow stronger — both individually and collectively. For the past 13 years, including 11 years of being an organizer at Jewish Community Action, I have been bringing people together to create a Jewish voice for justice. I have worked on building more affordable housing, lobbying for health care for all children and am currently working to defeat the “Anti-Marriage” and the Voter ID Amendments which suppress the rights of individuals…much like what my ancestors experienced.
Our society’s playing field is lopsided. The ball is always rolling toward those who have privilege and power. Let’s create a game where everyone’s hands, hearts and knowledge are utilized to create a more perfect world. Let’s come together, share our stories and build power to make lasting changes in our world. Won’t you please join me?