Rabbi's Message - February 1, 2022
Today marks the beginning of Black History Month. When I thought to speak to the importance of this month and its celebration of the achievements of African Americans in United States history, along with its relation to our own REDI (Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) work today, I did a quick internet search to see if others had spoken (written?) to this topic specific to this year. What popped up was disheartening.
I noticed that among the results that popped up, most were dated 2021 or earlier. I may have clicked on one, forgetting that its 2022, and as I was reading its suggestions, quickly figured out that the discussion in it was a year “old”. Now, many of the suggestions for ways to observe this month as Jews still hold true. Our world hasn’t categorically changed in the last year, but Jewish leaders are known to give a new take on prior sources and themes. Surely, we have not exhausted all there is to say on any topic – certainly not this one. So, I wondered, where are those articles? Is it my search terms – they must exist! Even changing the search terms did not easily yield results – eventually one page that was ‘updated’ for this year from a past year. Why is this?
My social media has been filled recently with processing the events of Colleyville, and currently with statements on the unanimous decision of McMinn County, Tennessee Board of Education to remove “Maus” from the eighth-grade curriculum due to “rough, objectionable language” and nudity. For many, “Maus” was an introduction into the heavy themes of the Holocaust, and the idea of it being banned from a public school, potentially symbolic of more to come – and what it means for Holocaust education, is extremely troubling, to say the least. As a Jewish community, we know the dangers of being, or being viewed as, the ‘stranger in the Land of Egypt’ and are commanded to actively work towards the safety and security of vulnerable groups precisely because of our history.
I’m hoping the lack of Jewish writing this year on Black History Month, which lifts the achievements, voices, and ongoing needs of a vulnerable group in our culture and time, is merely because the month has just begun. As we enter this month and grapple with making our own voices heard for the sake of Holocaust education and combating ongoing antisemitism, as we seek training and education to ensure our own safety and security, may we also continue to commit to lifting the voices of others as well, of celebrating the achievements this month stands for, and moving together towards freedom, justice, and equity for all.