Category Archives: racial justice

The High Holy Days

People often ask what we Jewish people do on the High Holy Days. What’s the Jewish New Year? “Do you have parties and fireworks?” And what’s the Day of Atonement? “Do you get absolved of all the things you’ve done wrong?” Let me see if I can provide some answers from my Reform Judaism and own point of you. Apologies already to my Orthodox friends who are much more observant than we are. This is bare bones here.

images-3.jpg

Rosh Hashanah celebrates the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It’s in the 7th month of the Jewish calendar. Wikipedia says: Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn), as prescribed in the Torah. (Below is Moe practicing at our daughter’s in Seattle while we’re Skyping with our son and daughter-in-law’s family in California. Our granddaughter is in awe while I’m busting a gut.)

IMG_5101

 

Despite this moment of hilarity, the High Holy Days are very solemn. It is a time to look into your soul.

IMG_2053.jpg

People attend synagogue services and read special prayers and liturgy that has been read by our forefathers and mothers for thousands of years.

 

It’s also a time to gather with family and friends to enjoy delicious meals with symbolic and traditional foods. (This requires hours in the kitchen and sacrificing manicures!!!!)

IMG_0405

IMG_9976

 

Here’s part of something I wrote for our Rosh Hashanah dinner this year.

Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5778.

We celebrate

  • our love for family and all humanity,
  • our desire to help our fellow man,
  • our hope to be the best people we can be,
  • our prayers for peace in the world.

We celebrate by reflecting on our past year. We remember the good things we have done, and the bad. We make a pledge to be better people—to do more good things—to put our words into action. Life is not a game of perfect, we will make some mistakes. But we never give up. We have ten days to think about who we are and who we want to be. We search our inner selves. We slow down to take stock. We recite the prayers our great-great-grandmothers and grandfathers did, as well. We carry on our heritage and connect with the generations before us. In these Ten Days of Awe, we center ourselves by remembering we are not the sum of our accomplishments or the amount of our possessions. No, we are just human beings. Human beings who are moral at our core.

images-5

On Yom Kippur, you fast from sundown to sundown. It is a time for prayer and reflection, a time to get back to your center—to listen to the still, small voice inside that knows right from wrong. As we did on Rosh Hashanah, we go to synagogue to pray together . We ask forgiveness from God for what we have done wrong, and ask for the wisdom to not make the same mistakes. We say memorial prayers for our loved ones who are no longer with us.

IMG_3501

 

At sundown, we once again gather to break-the-fast. Another time to be with family and eat traditional foods.

IMG_2056

 

This is not in any way a definitive explanation of the High Holy Days. Mostly it’s a glimpse into how the family Muscatel observes them.

Shalom. Peace. Amen.

Advertisements

In the Blink of an Eye

“Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.”

 

I read a blog sent out by ACLU that said just because police are afraid of an African-American man (or woman) that is no excuse to kill them.

It got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

9781594831706

He says that we make decisions in the blink of an eye. Sometimes this is excellent. Some could call it intuition. But it often leads to the kinds of tragedies that are played out on the streets of big and small cities across America.

Police officers answering calls, especially domestic violence calls, are afraid for their lives. They know what has happened to other officers and that it could happen to them. They pull their guns fast and use them faster. If it’s a person of color it seems even faster. I’m not sure it’s because of racial hatred. It’s definitely racial profiling.

Ruminating about this, I started thinking about my own quick impressions of people. If I see a white older man in a suit, I think to myself: If that guy is a senator and a Republican he’s probably a Christian who only feels charity to other Christians. If he’s a “southern gentleman”, I throw in that he’s a racist bigot. I know it’s wrong to think that way. I’m trying to get over it.

Living in California there are many Hispanic people around me. Yesterday I got my car washed and sat next to two women speaking rapid fire Spanish. I’ve been working on my Spanish so I always eavesdrop to try to figure out what’s being said. As usual, I could pick out a few words here and there, but it was too quick for me. The men washing the cars, the man who took my information, the young woman who checked me out—they were all Hispanic. Should I generalize that all Hispanics are working class so how could they afford to get their car washed? A scene in the movie Beatrice At Dinner illustrates this well. When Beatrice, a guest, comes up to speak to Lithgow’s character, he asks her to refill his drink. He assumes she’s a servant. It’s not only because she’s wearing casual clothing; it’s because she’s Hispanic by birth. It’s a cringe-worthy moment.

Unknown-1

The ACLU blog got me thinking about how I feel if I see a black man. Do I immediately blink and feel fear? I don’t. I’m very happy to say that. I do not want to be a racist. I do not want to jump to conclusions about a person because of his or her race.

I was fortunate to grow up in Seattle and attend schools that were multi-racial and ethnic. I went back and taught in my junior high school and learned as much from my students as I taught them. So I avoided a lot of the scourge of racism. Not all, of course. But like Spanish, I keep working on it.

Besides being “white”, I am Jewish, which makes me a little schizophrenic in America, and always a little afraid.

DHCyb9mUQAAE9l0

I don’t “look Jewish” so I can pass easily in society. Until someone spouts a Jewish slur. That’s why I announce early into a conversation with a new acquaintance that I’m Jewish. I don’t want to suffer again the embarrassment of hearing someone say: “Don’t Jew me down.”

I’ve never wanted to admit that America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave. I love that myth. I love the stories of the Pilgrims and the Indians sharing the first Thanksgiving.

first-thanksgiving.jpg

It’s so sad at 71 to be aware it was a mythology we were taught. My generation was raised on Westerns where homesteaders and cowboys were heroes.

Unknown

We never realized that the scalps being taken and the arrows being shot were from the knives and bows of the people the land belonged to.

_64176050_chiefjoeseph,edwards.curtis,courtesyofcardozofineart

They were defending their property! We had no compassion whatsoever. It’s taken me a long time and perhaps the Donald Trump administration to pull the blinders fully from my rose colored eye-apparel.

I’m not saying I’m not proud to be an American. I am.

flag-2578873__340

I know how lucky I am that my grandparents had the courage to immigrate here, to a democratic capitalist nation. To a place where they had opportunity. I’m just acknowledging that the United States is not perfect. Nothing is. (Not even me.) But we can keep learning and growing.

images

We don’t have to be a melting pot to create a fabulous America. We can be a mixed salad with innovative and flavorful ingredients. Remember the posters United WE Stand after 9/11? Let’s remember that is our greatness.