Jonah Lincoln 620by320

What is our Fight? Black Lives Matter

What is our fight and What happens when agendas do not align?

Jonah Lincoln 620by320I am deeply disappointed in the platform of the Movement for Black Lives Matter (MBLM). My refusal to sign on to their agenda does not deter me from the important work that I believe we are called to do as Jews. There may be times when we work together for a common purpose, but their values are not mine.

My fight is to champion the rights of all people. However, the fight for civil rights as envisioned here in the United States is not related to a fight for the Palestinian people. There are important differences; each has its own story and layers of complications that do not reduce themselves merely to a black or white issue (pun intended).

MBLM has declared themselves in intersectionality alignment with all oppressed people of the world. MBLM, however, singled out the Palestinians as particular victims and Israel a particular villain. Sweeping statements have nothing to do with advancing the cause of civil rights in the United States. It is, however, a shot across the bow of the American Jews who are important allies in the fight for the elimination of institutional racism and promotion of equal opportunity in our country.

As a pragmatist, I am intent on creating change not taking global political positions.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was particularly powerful because he had climbed to the mountaintop and saw over at the Promised Land.   His eloquent oratory was empowered by his dedicated work on the front lines of the civil rights movement.

America is the fulfillment of the Jewish dream in so many ways. As a people, we historically have been outsiders and persecuted. It appears that here we have been accepted into the mainstream culture. Despite the continued existence of anti-Semitism in some corners, we have been able to gain access to all that the United States has to offer from the corridors of power to places of prosperity. In the process, we struggled to find our voice. Rabbi Jeff Salkin, in his blog Martini Judaism, recently shared the understanding that we found our voice in part by watching the American Black experience and then by participating in the civil rights struggle.

For the Jewish mainstream, many have forgotten how recently we attained this level of acceptance and we have not done enough to champion those who did not reach the level of success that we did. It is time to refresh our memory and commit again to a full-throated cry to help those who do not enjoy the benefits and blessings of our society. It is past time that we re-engage in the struggle for civil and human rights in this country. I will try to do my part. I urge all of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work to make this country all that it can and should be for all of its citizens. Today, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism launched Nitzavim in the state of North Carolina, the nationwide voter protection and participation program. May this be the first in our ongoing commitment to the future of our great country.FullSizeRender (1)

My engagement in this work will bring me into contact with people who are part of Black Lives Matter. My belief that MBLM is misguided at best in its pointed platform cannot be an excuse to refrain from working together for a common cause. I expect we will work together, shoulder to shoulder, in the important mission before us, for America to strive towards her ideals for all her people.

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

Ana Bekoach (Please by the power of Your great right hand) a mystical prayer/meditation/song said to contain the 42 letter name of God. Written as seven lines of six words each the prayer miraculously connects us to the pure spiritual light and energy that created the world.  A sublime introduction to the evening prayers of Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom

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The American dilemma of Black Lives Matter

FullSizeRender (1)Black Lives Matter. Most of us agreed a while ago that this statement means that all lives matter, everyone should receive justice in our system and the institutional barriers to equality must be broken down. The criminal justice system, the education system, and the economic system must provide  opportunities to all.

And then, a political platform emerged from BLM. It lost focus on the ideas that brought us all together. In addition to talking about the issues that brought BLM into being, pronouncements about the US military and pronouncements about the Israel-Palestinian conflict inserted themselves, blurring our focus and obscuring our original mission.

The tragedies that spawned the BLM movement were about righting the wrongs that exist here. Reaching internationally under the banner of “intersectionality” does nothing to galvanize us to action here in the United States. As a point of fact, such stands become dividers as many of us that were supporting BLM are put off by the singling out of Israel as a villain in the sadly reductionist narrative of Palestinian as the victim, occupation bad. The naming of Israel as an Apartheid state, support of BDS, and the deliberate misuse of the word genocide to describe the Palestinian situation is loaded and hurtful, directed at the people who were victims of real villains who perpetrated a real genocide. This is not to negate the real issues of the Palestinians, but rather to state this is the wrong place for this conversation to occur, let alone one-sided judgmental statements.

BLM is not about the world’s oppressed. It is about our oppressed. BLM is not an opportunity to indict the United States military, its mission or its budget. It is about correcting the institutions that do not serve the people properly. Rectifying systemic domestic issues should be the priority and with laser focus, we need to understand what has gone wrong and what we need to do to fix our nation before another generation is deprived of a full and hopeful future.

Unless and until the BLM “movement” can focus on the complicated issues, it will be stalled. There will be loud voices for a while, but systemic change will prove elusive and ultimately unsuccessful as the focused collective will of the people  becomes nothing more than the diffuse  broad brush protest against the establishment, by those with an agenda very different from identifying and making the necessary changes required to create a just society here in the United States.

 I will continue to work for the society we aspire to be, but sadly I have been shut out from the “movement” many had wanted to create. I hope that the BLM movement sees the alienation it has created by its irresponsible platform and seeks to include all citizens of goodwill to join the important work that is needed here at home.