19 June 2020

‘To remain silent in the face
of evil dishonours not just
myself, but my entire lineage’

Braided Challah (חַלָּה‎) is typically eaten on Shabbat … the double loaf commemorates the manna that fell on Fridays in the wilderness

Patrick Comerford

Sometimes on Friday evenings, I offer reflections from some of the Jewish prayer books I use in personal prayers, or from writers such as the former Chief Rabbi, Lord (Jonathan) Sacks.

But this Friday evening, 19 June or ‘Juneteenth’ – the day commemorating the end of slavery in the US, and a day that Donald Trump tried to hijack for one of his Nuremberg-style rallies – I though it appropriate to share a reflection by the singer-songwriter Janis Ian on her Facebook page this morning.

She wrote earlier today:

‘As a Jewish child, I went to Passover seder at my grandparents’ every year. That was when the entire family came together, to eat, to sing, and to educate the youngsters.

‘My grandparents’ seder table was where I learned that my people had been held in bondage, that we had been thrown out of pretty much every country in the world, and that when schoolmates called me ‘Christ killer’ and threw things at me, I had the right to fight back.

‘My parents taught me about Hitler at the same time they taught me about American slavery, Sojourner Truth, the underground tunnels Chinese workers were forced to use, the Japanese internment camps, the Irish potato famine, and the commonalities between Italian and Jewish immigrants, because the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory didn’t care where you were from – you died regardless.

‘My grandparents’ seders taught me that all life was sacred, and that as a Jew whose people had been oppressed over the millennia, I had a greater responsibility to understand, and fight against, repression.

‘This may seem like a lot to teach a young child, but I also learned that I should be proud of our resilience in the face of such bigotry

‘More important, I was taught over and over again that until ALL people were safe and free, I would not be truly free. That it was my personal responsibility to make the world a better place, and that to remain silent in the face of evil dishonoured not just myself, but my entire lineage, all 5,780 years of it as of today.

‘At seven, as my bored self sat through what seemed an interminable service in the hope of getting a double dessert for my good behaviour, the lessons still went in. Today, at 69, they resonate more profoundly than ever before.

‘I am not in a position of great power. I try to do the best I can, correct mistakes when I make them, and remain hopeful that the world is slowly becoming a better place – while acknowledging that we still have a long way to go

‘In that spirit, I wish everyone a Happy Juneteenth, and I hope that if you’ve never heard of it, you have a look at this article and wish your own friends and neighbours the same.’

And she then provides this link a feature in the Guardian:

Juneteenth Independence holiday: here’s what you need to know

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I have subscribed to, and been reflecting on, your valued blogs for several years now. I began whilst, as a mature student, I was studying an Open University module in World Religions and related issues.

Your writings, for me, remain a candle and a stimulus. I frequently Fwd them to other friends and family, Believers and Doubters. Some of your travelogues prove useful for my UK-based tourist-guide work!

May you continue blessed in what you do - and challenge.