by Aurora Levins Morales
This piece was written for the Kehilla community and shared on Kol Nidre 5779/2018.
In the heart of this congregation, we have planted the seeds of racial justice, a handful of grains in the earth of our belief, a place to tell untold stories, a place to draw maps of long journeys, a place to unveil our heartbreaks and look our ignorances in the face. The seeds are only beginnings, possibilities that must be watered, weeded, fed. It means we have to haul buckets, spread manure, and pull up the wickedly thorned thistles of our defenses. It means getting down and dirty. This racial justice initiative is a not yet sprouted garden of unequaled beauty germinating among us, medicinal, nourishing, fragrant, and the seeds begin in conversation, in a cluster of six bare earth plots called affinity groups. There are trowels enough to go around, and each one of you has a place to sit cross-legged on the ground and begin.
Or to change the poem, in the heart of this congregation there is a new song that we can all dance to, and this is its choreography.
We who have hovered at the edges, with our bundles of silence, our cracked rage, our suitcases full of dispossession, our not rocking the boat for fear of drowning, our letting our white cousins massacre our names, our letting our white cousins ask if we are the help, aching to be known, aching to speak our Jewishness in accents you have never heard before, we who are called indigenous, called Black and of color, we Jews beyond the Ashkenazi pale, will step, hobble, roll into the center, unassimilated, fiercely lovely in our unedited truths, bringing all our ancestors speaking all their languages into this room, saying we are not confusing, singing we Jews are a garment of a thousand threads, a coat of 20 million colors, for the heart of the Jewish world lives equally in every Jew, and no one is exotic, and every one of us is Jewish enough, and however we travel through the world is a Jewish path.
We who have held the center, raised the roof beams, wrestled old words into new melodies,
carried our treasured scraps of Yiddishkeit next to our hearts, carried our shtels, our Europe, our ship’s passenger lists, our landings in the goldeneh medina, we who walked unknowing into the occupation of other people’s worlds, walked unknowing into whiteness that coated us bit by bit like layers of shellac, deadening our senses, we who are etched with the pain of separation from all our others, we settlers hungry for unsettling, we will step hobble, roll outward to the rim of the circle and hold space for our kin, will fast from speaking first, will fast from being the ones who know, will feast on listening, will let the varnish crack and peel, saying we will not be confused, singing the heart of the Jewish world lives equally in every Jew, and no one is the norm, and every one of us is a real Jew, and traveling together through the world is our Jewish path. And stepping in and stepping out we will weave a dance of justice right here in this room.
There are dance shoes enough to go around, and each one of you has a place to tap your feet, warm up your muscles and move, a place called affinity group. Indigenous people, we have a place. Black people and People of Color, we have a place. Mizrahim and Sephardim we have a place. People with white privilege, we have a place. White parents of children of color, we have a place. Families of color including white co-parents, we have a place. One two three, one two three, dance!
[This piece is offered under a Creative Commons License (share freely, don’t edit, don’t make money from my work, honor the work of artists and support what I do through Patreon:https://www.patreon.com/auroralevinsmorales.]