By Hila Ratzabi
As I entered Kol Tzedek, the Reconstructionist synagogue in West Philadelphia, I was greeted by hugs and tears. I found a seat among my community and was invited by Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari to find a partner and take turns listening as we shared whatever we felt the need to say. People had the chance to stand up and speak in front of the community. We chanted slow, mournful prayers.
It was the evening of November 9th, 2016. My community unequivocally mourned the election results, and we have spent the past few weeks processing a barrage of emotions: fear, sadness, and despair. As a community committed to social justice, the incoming administration leaves many of us terrified by heightened anti-Semitic rhetoric and threats to the safety of women, Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQ people, and other vulnerable groups.
It didn’t occur to me until the next day that I’d be dealing with these issues, questions, and feelings in my role as editor of Ritualwell.org, where we discussed what we could offer to Jews and the wider world in the face of this new historical moment. We came to the conclusion that now more than ever we need to access the tools for self-care, to prepare ourselves for difficult battles ahead, and to sustain our inner strength and faith in moving forward.
Even before this dramatic turn of events, Ritualwell.org has been the go-to resource for rabbis and laypeople, Jews and fellow travelers alike, to seek prayers, rituals, and ceremonies for a whole range of life events. An early pioneer in the online Jewish world, Ritualwell.org was founded in 2001 and continues to inspire its users with fresh content for our changing times. As a project of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, Ritualwell.org publishes creative responses to issues of the day, encouraging users to innovate Jewish practice.
We have an entire section called “Healing & Hard Times,” and to that section we recently added “Prayer for Self-Care During the Struggle,” by Kohenet (Priestess) Ahava Lilith evershYne, and “We Will Be Heard,” by Alden Solovy. We also published “Hashkiveinu for Standing Rock,” by Mónica Gomery, and two Reconstructionist Rabbinical College students, Mackenzie Reynolds, and Jessica Rosenberg, which supports the brave Water Protectors at Standing Rock. These original prayers give voice to the importance of caring for the most vulnerable parts of ourselves and the most vulnerable communities in our country.
These new prayers are just the beginning. We want to augment our resources that respond to this unique moment in history. We welcome submissions of kavannot, meditations, prayers, blessings, rituals, blog posts, songs, and other spiritual tools for navigating this particularly dark time.
Regardless of politics, Jewish groups must respond to the new reality after the election. We can draw strength from the wisdom of our tradition and the creativity that has guided and sustained the Jewish people through our rich history. What new rituals will you create to meet this new historical moment? We look forward to hearing from you.
Hila Ratzabi is an award-winning poet, writing coach, and Editor of Ritualwell.org.