By Philippa Boyes
It’s been nearly a month since the shooting in Poway. In the aftermath of the attack, the Jewish media was filled with articles about the importance of building relationships with other communities targeted by white nationalists to combat all forms of hate. Other than expressing this solidarity on social media, what steps have most of us actually taken to create change, to build these relationships, and to demonstrate solidarity? As the U.S. grows increasingly segregated, ask yourself – what is my action plan for making sure I’m in deep relationship with people who are different than me?
Our response to growing anti-semitism in America must be both collective and ongoing (unfortunately, the attacks are ongoing as well). When violent white nationalism comes in to any community – whether Jewish, Muslim, Black Christians, or other – it is an attack on all of us, as marginalized communities. The hate that drives the perpetrators groups us all together as “the others” in society, those who don’t belong, those who are ripping at the fabric of what the white nationalists deem to be accepted. Jewish, Muslim, Black Christians, and other communities are stronger, are safer, when we recognize and exemplify that we are a collective unit who care for each other and who belong together in society. One very powerful way to be in partnership is through service.
Whatever differences one community may have from another go by the wayside when people work together in authentic service, in deep partnership, for and with others. Showing up to work side-by-side with a marginalized community creates bonds and connections that cultivate genuine relationships. These relationships should be premised on listening, on collaboration, and on a level of consistency. By listening to the needs of one another, showing up when we’re asked, collaborating on how to make a deeper impact, and doing this all often and regularly – we can build bridges. It takes time and it takes effort, and it is real. When we’re really in partnership, we look out for each other more, we care about each other more, and we help each other stay safer when we have relationships and shared experiences with each other.
In Pittsburgh, after the Tree of Life shooting, we saw how different communities came together to say “I’m here, I’m with you, and we will be here together.” As my colleague Zack Block, our Senior Director of Communities and Executive Director of Repair the World Pittsburgh reflected after the Tree of Life shooting, “There are so many who are not enveloped, included and cared for. Although social justice and the pursuit of mitzvot has been ingrained in the fabric of the Jewish people since the beginning of time, there is still much work to be done. We must use our voice and our privilege as Jews to stand up with our neighbors and with marginalized communities who have not always experienced the same outpouring of national support as we have seen this week.”
Of course service is not the only way to build these bridges. There’s power any time groups of people come together to work towards bringing good into the world, whether by community organizing, joining local governments, or creating other opportunities for more people to be heard and represented where their voices previously have been drowned out. What matters is that when you commit to come together with others, you commit to be a team, to build something or work towards something that others deem to be important. You’re not doing it for your ego; you’re there for your partner.
Standing up with each other is important – and is something that our communities should do year-round, not only in the wake of tragedy. Jewish teaching calls on us to serve with others. This service is undoubtedly impactful for those in need – those marginalized in society – but it also impacts those of us more privileged as it itself serves as a vehicle to know another “other.” We know that service is not just about the outputs at the end of a day of volunteering, but it’s about building bridges across lines of difference and creating light together. One America Movement, for example, shows how coalition building across communities is a vehicle to address national issues, such as poverty and the opioid epidemic.
In the wake of another tragedy, let’s commit to healing through building the larger community of us all. Let’s embrace each other year-round, let’s work side-by-side, and let’s cultivate our relationships that bind us and make us stronger.
Philippa Boyes is Marketing and Communications Manager of Repair the World.