June 24 & 25, 2019
What was meaningful for me as a Jewish person about being at the convening and action?
I was actually quite surprised to find out how glad #Defund Hate Coalition folks were that there was a Jewish organizing presence in the room.
For some, when they understood I was with Bend the Arc (BTA), they were uplifted right away to have us in the room. I sat next to a woman from SAALT, and I watched her look at my name tag, register my organizational affiliation, and then a big smile came across her face and she looked right at me and said “I’m so glad you’re here.”
Other folks, those who were not familiar with BTA, were curiously surprised to learn of a Jewish organizational presence in the Defund Hate coalition. In another interaction, a woman from New Jersey didn’t know of BTA, but as I explained we are a Jewish justice organization she lit up with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to be connected to the BTA Moral Minyan in her area to strengthen the work we’re all doing. It was clear that in her mind, Jews have a strong organizing reputation, and she was so glad, and so surprised, that we were in the Defund Hate room, using our energy to take apart the violent deportation machine.
Interestingly, there seemed to be a lot of Jews in the room who were not there as Jews but somehow, it still felt to me like the Bend the Arc umbrella presence actually spread out over them, too, in a deepening way.
The people reacted with such a positive response to learning of my Jewishness that it was both restorative to me: an unexpected antidote to the layers of internalized anti-semistism I am finding out still live inside me, and also galvanizing to me to keep engaging more fully. It was an embodied experience of doing the work of shifting white supremacy culture in the U.S. as a Jew but not solely in a way that focuses on Jewish safety. That integrative experience felt both connective and filled with a deep solidarity, and like I could show up generously with my whole self to serve collective liberation.
What was a moment that moved me?
In the closing hours of our time together, a powerful young, queer, undocumented, woman and inspiring organizer, Greisa Martinez Rosas Deputy Director from United We Dream spoke of her relentless hope to keep dedicating her life to liberation. And her touchstone? Song.
She told her story of singing to a bus of teenagers in deportation as they were driven away. They called back to her, “we hear you, and we know we’re not alone.” And then, months later, alone in an empty room in the San Diego airport, detained by TSA as her own deportation proceedings began, song again rose. Amazing Grace emerged from her soul, over and over and over for countless hours, carrying the deep knowing “Someone is coming for me, I am not alone.”
And then, in tandem with Max, she led the whole room in song. We did not just sing in Spanish. And not just English, either. But we sang our call, our cry, in Hebrew, too. The room wept as we sang, together. Relentless Hope.
Traemos la fuerza
Es mu unica bandera
Listen my people
My condors, my eagles
No human being
Will ever be illegal
What would I tell someone considering going to an upcoming Defund Hate convening?
I would tell someone considering going to an upcoming Defund Hate convening not to miss the opportunity to dive in. I learned so much in ways I could have anticipated and ways I never could have imagined. It was like an activist mikveh: a full-bodied, overwhelmingly immersive rite of passage marking life-changing learning. It’s a way of clarifying what’s next on the path of Jewish Justice and purifying for the lifelong process of beginning anew over and over again!