A Return to Amsterdam: Jewish Tour and A Golden Age Uncovered 🌷🇳🇱
More from The Wandering Jew: A return to a place I visited 25 years ago, and some Jewish surprises there
It’s taken me a moment, as it often does, to gather my thoughts on what all is happening.
I’ve long supported, studied, and given to social justice movements. I was a gay rights activist and studied black history, the civil rights movement, queer studies, and worked with the women’s resource center in college. And I’m also a privileged cis white male, so usually I’ve learned to listen and question my thinking and assumptions on issues other than those affecting gay men.
I see parts of America awakening, beginning to listen, and others realizing we haven’t fully been listening. Things changed so rapidly for LGBTQ people due to tireless work. We worked in and alongside the civil rights movement (like Bayard Rustin), learning from it, and were able to go from de facto criminals and “degenerates” to winning civil marriage equality in a few short decades. There was a confluence of factors here:
The queer community had whiteness as its leadership, more money, and crosscut every culture, city, and state in the country. Put another way: If a black person were in every extended family in America, maybe we wouldn’t have the divide and violence and systemic issues we have now. It wasn’t until the push to widely come out that the rest of the culture realized they all knew someone queer.
For people of color, the reality is we not only live in different households but different spheres, neighborhoods, and social contracts. That social contract is broken.
Jewish social action circles invoke Never Again, the mantra after the Shoah—The Holocaust—that not only will this never again happen to Jews, but Jewish people have a specific obligation to prevent any such atrocity against other peoples.
This is what first drew me into Judaism a year ago: seeing Jews Against ICE march. (And if Israel-Palestine comes to mind, two things: 1) it did for me, too, 2) if you’re wanting to call progressive Jews and other social activists hypocrites, check your antisemitism: not all Jews support Israel as a Jewish state, including its own citizens and many progressives, and yes: many on the left veer into antisemitism with that. AND—because this shit is so complex, 3) Jews don’t have to defend and certainly can not be held responsible for Israel any more so than I can be held responsible for the actions of Ireland, Scotland, and England, and Germany, where my people are from; I’m appalled by what ICE and Trump are doing, so I speak out on it, but I’m not personally responsible for it, nor does it mean America and its people are always bad).
See The Struggle to Build a Loving, Accepting, and Ethical Israel, Reform Judaism
Never Again combined with another Jewish teaching gives us a channel and call for action; we are drawn to do, not just talk/blog/meme/Instagram:
Tikkun Olam – the Jewish call to action – means a couple things. Tikkun in Hebrew means “repair” and connotes healing oneself, others, and the world. Combined with Olam, “the whole world,” it becomes social action and the pursuit of social justice.
Tikkun Olam continues below
Graphics: Tikkun Olam means Black Lives Matter on a Star of David; Justice for George graphic
Continued from Tikkun Olam above
But what does that mean? What does “repair” mean and how do we go about it? For me it means a wide variety of things, all of which feel like shifts and refocusing. These things—and this larger moment, this revolution—feel possible to me because:
What’s interesting about this confluence is that it was all preventable; were Trump not a clueless, self-serving grifter, we could have a competent federal response to a pandemic like most our allies and saved scores of lives. Most our allies, too had a strong economic response to help people in need. He could have also addressed the nation in an impactful way to draw people together and call for racial justice. But LOL, can you see him doing that in any meaningful way? Even if he did, we know who he is and what he really believes.
A perfect shit-storm seemed to appear at once overnight and yet decades, centuries overdue: Leadership that doesn’t care about the common person, which is increasingly a person of color, and telling us to sacrifice ourselves to go back to work jobs that weren’t paying the bills anyway.
Then the latest horrific videos came, and millions rose to left the house again. We realized our power in this moment; folks decided that No, they weren’t all going to go back to work—it was the same week California storefronts and restaurants were reopening only to be boarded up as some looters overshadowed the daytime protests.
We’d been idle really for decades, especially as white allies, and Americans everywhere had been idle for 2 months. We have power we didn’t realize we still had.
This has been the first I’ve seen since my college days a mass movement that seeks to show Washington that this younger generation sees them, sees that they don’t see us and especially don’t see our most at-risk people, and really bridges something that’s been a huge issue in American politics since the civil rights era.
For too long the Republican Party has succeeded in selling white people that they have more in common with rich white people than they do with other people in their same class and community who happen to be a different color, race, or religion.
And that’s bullshit. That’s how we’re still here, 99 years after Tulsa, 55 years after Selma, and 12 years after first electing a black man President. Electing Obama made a lot of white people, myself included, feel really good about ourselves, but one president can’t change an entire 400-year old culture across a huge landmass.
Never Again Action (immigration and deportation)
June 11, 2020 by Bobby Apperson