Tonight we had the incredible opportunity of sitting down with a group of young Jewish adults for a discussion that seemed to encapsulate the essence of our trip. Over plates of delicious deserts, we divided into a few small groups and read a powerful article relating to our roles as members of the Jewish community and our responsibility towards those who are suffering outside of our community, especially in the context of the recent events in Ferguson, MO and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Certain groups discussed a supposed inherent empathy within the Jewish people, and how that can prevent us from becoming bystanders. At the same time, some people thought that even beyond our duty as Jews, it is our duty as humans to intervene when we witness the suffering of others despite race, class, or religion. Some adult members of the group contributed their own experiences with anti-semitism, although as white teenagers from Massachusetts, many of us in our group don’t really identify as minorities, but instead noted how white privilege is prevalent in our lives.
Something that really resonated with me was a comment that Emilia made towards the end of our discussion. The topic of debate was a nomination by the JNF of a particular Reverend from Atlanta who is an influential advocate for the state of Israel, yet is outwardly homophobic. The question was whether or not our responsibility to the state of Israel trumps our responsibility to the LGBTQ community. She mentioned how forming a hierarchy of responsibility to other communities and values within the Jewish community isn’t exactly the right approach. Instead, we should think about these other communities as connected to us, but not comparable to each other. In the end, it was quite an exhilarating and eye-opening discussion for us all, and it was nice to feel accepted and appreciated by such an articulate and intellectual group of Jewish adults.