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Rabbi's Week In Review- June 23, 2020

06/23/2020 12:24:49 AM


I have had one of those weeks. Time seemed to blend together into one amorphous blob.  Hard to say whether or not I was feeling sluggish or the week itself seemed sluggish. Maybe it is the isolation attendant to COVID-19.

There were two events that broke through the haze, and brought about a refreshing and reaffirming sense of connection and community. Early in the week, I participated in an annual board retreat with Missouri Healthcare for All. As the immediate past board president, I have participated and/or led many retreats before this one. Yet this one seemed different.

Certainly holding the retreat via Zoom rather than together in St. Louis was different. But that wasn’t it. The early part of the retreat was devoted to ways in which we can be victorious in passing Medicaid expansion in the August election, giving more than 200,000 Missourians access to good health care, which these uninsured Missourians have been previously denied.

While the possibility of making progress on the organization’s goal of health care for all was exciting and encouraging, it was not the part of the retreat that was remarkably different.  Most of the two days was devoted to how we could become effective as an organization in doing anti-racist work. This is far different from doing the work of becoming nonracist. The work of anti-racism takes the focus away from “the me and us” and puts the focus on what I and we can do for “the other” — in this case, the other being the black community.

Taking the focus away from the me and us opened up the deep, personal sharing of ideas, concerns and feelings. It led to a much more tight-knit organization, and a board that made significant strides in our concern, not just for issues that may not be directly a part of our work but in our relationships within the organization.

The other remarkable event of the week was participation by our Kol Ami family in the Pray on Troost event last Friday night, June 19. We did not make showing up a replacement for celebrating Shabbat. We made our showing up for this Black Lives Matter event an integral part of our Shabbat celebration. We prayed with our voices, and as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, we prayed with our feet.  

In coming together for the black community, it made our community closer. I realized that it was our concern for the black community that brought us in physical space together for the first time in about three months or so. It was the antidote to the isolating haze I had been feeling during the week. Simply put, for me it was wonderful to see everyone.  

We refer to the various concerns we have regarding the state of our community and our world as a pursuit of social justice. We tend to focus on the justice piece and lose sight of the social piece. Pursuing justice is about more than changing policy. Within it is a need to create social connection, and, as a wonderful byproduct, pursuing justice creates an environment by which we enhance our longstanding relationships and create new relationships of meaning and purpose. It is in these relationships that we open up the possibility to create a more just world.

Fri, July 3 2020 11 Tammuz 5780