How does our Zionism and our Judaism define our relationship with race?
I wanted to take a moment on behalf of the National Mazkirut to share with you our theme for Young Judaea’s National Midwinter Convention 2015. National Convention provides us as Judaeans with an opportunity to come together and immerse ourselves in a challenging and engaging environment where we can learn about the world around us through the lens of Zionism. As we start 2015 in a world of conflict and controversy, the Mazkirut believes it is vital now more than ever that we use this opportunity to allow our Chevre T’nua to meaningfully engage with the challenges of our time in a safe, Zionist, and Jewish space. Given the events of the past months, the Mazkirut feels that one issue has stood out as the question with which we need to engage.
One of the most central issues facing American society today is racial inequality. Therefore, we would like to devote National Convention to the discussion and exploration “Jews and Race Relations”. As Judaeans, we must use our Zionism to help formulate our responses to the world around us, not just when it comes to Israel but in everything we do. In the months since the Missouri Grand Jury’s decision, many Young Judaeans have been engaged in the issue on social media but have not had the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion in a Jewish environment with their peers. Few Jewish organizations have been talking about these complex issues. As a movement with a history of Social Action, it is important for us to provide a safe environment for Judaeans to engage through the lenses of Jewish and Zionist values.
We’re seeking to fulfill a specific need. By learning about the foundations of Zionism, our movement’s history in the civil rights movement here in the US, and how Israel as a model addresses the difficult questions of race, we will explore the roles of student activists in America in expanding social change and the different ways Judaeans can get involved in this important and growing conversation.
Something I have personally witnessed during my experiences with the Black Lives Matter movement is the prominence of Students for Justice in Palestine and other anti-Israel groups at the forefront of these rallies and marches. Protesters chants slogans like, “From Ferguson to Palestine, racist wars are a crime” and speakers lament the suffering of Gazans without mentioning the pain of Israelis. Although these narrow representations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are upsetting, it is not a reason to wash our hands of the struggle for racial equality. Just the opposite: I think it is potentially an incredible teaching moment as well as an opportunity to affect real change by choosing to tackle this issue. While standing up for other minorities, it is important to stay true to our roots and not compromise our values. We have the opportunity to teach other about our own cause while supporting one similar to our own. We’re all struggling for justice and acceptance in society.