A kid fell at the park the other day. There were many of us there. We saw her crying. We looked around for her mom, or dad, or sibling. We waited for her to get up from under the child crushing her. After a good five or ten seconds my friend and I got up to help.
Earlier that week, I was at Misrad Hapnim. Somehow a garbage can overturned and nastiness spilled out. Right in front of us. You had to step over it to get anywhere. No one in that crowded room moved. I asked an employee for a broom and she said she’d send someone over. In the interim, people walked over or around it, but no one did anything to remove it. They didn’t even kick it aside. Then one guy- with his bare hands- scooped up the nasty and put it back where it belonged. I was skeeved but also ashamed that I hadn’t done it myself.
What is it that keeps us looking around for a leader? Why are we always waiting for someone else to do the fixing, to clean up the mess?
We are excellent at identifying what is wrong, at how other people have it all wrong, at declaring how much better we could do it… but we stink at making it happen.
Traditionally, we are told to wait for the good things. We wait for the Messiah. We wait for the Temple. We wait for the world to come. But, has all this waiting engendered passivity in us as a people?
I’m not quite sure. I only know that for me, and a group of like-minded, incredible women, that waiting is over.
Frustrated with the infighting (read Kotel wars, incitement against alternate Jewish streams, and overall lack of acceptance); the concentration on negativity rather than on solutions to pressing problems; and the serious leadership crisis, we’ve chosen to stop waiting for leadership and to focus on what our heritage demands of us: Tsedek, tsedek tirdof- Justice, you shall pursue! and Al taamod al daam raecha “Do not stand idly by while your friend’s blood is spilled.”
Historically, what we’ve lost, we’ve lost through rejection of one another. It caused our descent into slavery, the loss of our Temple and it is what fuels the majority of our problems today.
If our 3,400 year history has shown us anything, it is that infighting is our ruin and that only through our collective action do we accomplish anything.
And, when I say collective action, I mean C O L L E C T I V E. I do not mean faction against faction. Take for example, our successful settlement of this land. In ancient and modern history, Jews of all tribes/streams/opinions worked together toward a common goal and achieved it- despite the overwhelming odds.
Monumental things can be accomplished when people look forward toward the goal before them, not to the side in judgment of the person next to them.
Yet, for some unfathomable reason, today’s Orthodox Judaism focuses increasingly on the things that separate us, on those external things that can be measured and judged i.e. kippa style, sleeve length, ethnic background, etc.
At the same time, compounding the damage, it brushes aside those core values like Al Taamod and Tzedek Tzedek, that call for seeing one another – and caring for one another – as brothers and sisters.
The idea of passive Judaism is a relatively modern invention- one born of years of exile and fear. Today, we justify our inaction with excuses such as, “It’s not my problem,” “I need to ask my Rabbi/Life Coach/Guru,” “I don’t have the time/resources/expertise,” or, “It won’t matter anyway, nothing I do will make a difference.”
We do not have the luxury for these excuses! Salvation of our people and our planet will not fall from the sky. Nor should we expect it to! We are told explicitly to pursue justice, these commandments weren’t given to ‘leaders’ but to each and every one of us!
We are admonished not to stand idly by while our brother’s blood is being spilled. A brother doesn’t mean only he who wears the same kippa as me, but all of my people!
It is immoral to stand by as children are abused and the abuse is covered up.
It is unconscionable to ignore women who are chained to men they are desperate to be freed from.
It is disgraceful to watch as our land is destroyed by greed and short term thinking.
It is abhorrent that our court systems are so bureaucratic that those they are meant to protect instead suffer at their hands.
It is despicable to reject people who live in and serve our country and who desperately want to join our nation.
What are we teaching our children? Where are we headed?
We as people were given responsibilities and rules to follow and we are failing on an individual and national level.
Our group has decided to give voice to our brothers and sisters in pain and to rally behind these causes as though they were our own- because- they are.
It is incumbent on all of us to be the change we want to see in the world. Chochmat Nashim invites you to join us as we advocate, agitate and demand better–in the park, online and in the streets.
Chochmat Nashim is an initiative by Jewish women, observant of both Torah and society at large. We harness our collective strength and compassion to confront injustice and intolerance within the Jewish world. Committed to the dictates and spirit of our tradition, we rigorously promote a platform of reason and moderation to find practical and just solutions to contemporary challenges.
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