We are happy to report that the weather cooperated and we were able to complete our walk in support of the Howard Ellis Glioblastoma Research Fund. Nearly twenty people and one dog participated and we canvassed the East Coast from Connecticut down to South Carolina. Thus far in 2020, we have raised more than $10,000 for the Howard Ellis Glioblastoma Research Fund through Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and we hope to increase that between now and the end of the year.
A major message that has been communicated in response to the murder of George Floyd is that we each must find a way to take action. The Social Action Committee, chaired by Audrey Levitin and Sarita Eisenberg, published in the June 4th ShomreiWeek a range of opportunities for us to contemplate.
Last Sunday (June 7) I opted to attend a Prayer Vigil, which took place at 2:00 p.m. at the Football Field in Glenfield Park, located on Maple Avenue in Montclair. This gathering was organized by Reverend Michael Spivey of the Citadel of Hope Worship Center in Bloomfield. It was described as an open invitation for all to participate in prayers for our families, community, and our nation. In that it was stated that demonstrators would be adhering to social distancing guidelines, I felt that this was a safe way in which to express solidarity and to advocate for change in our community.
Generally, attending a protest is not a hard decision for me—find your walking shoes, grab a sign and go. Yet COVID has made this a wrenching decision—how do you isolate yourself to stop the spread of one disease and step out to stop the ravages of racism and hate.
After 12 weeks of self-imposed quarantine, the protests compelled me to step out. As I weighed the risks, I saw the risk of very few people showing up as greater than the risk of my getting infected. And while I know that protests do not change the world overnight, silence kills.
Each one of us must judge our tolerance for risk, this time the risk of remaining silent was greater than the risk of becoming ill.
It was the end of March. Except for some walks around the block, I hadn’t gone anywhere or even left the house for several weeks. And then I received an email from the County Freeholders — We Need Your Help! Support Toni’s Kitchen.
The email continued: We urge you to support Toni’s Kitchen as they are being overwhelmed with the growing demands for their services. Toni’s Kitchen provides food and other critical services to those in the greater Montclair/Bloomfield Community. They are now providing groceries and fresh produce to students who receive free or reduced priced meals from the Montclair Public Schools as well as Senior Citizens and medically at risk residents.
I made a donation.
And then I signed up to help. Continue reading
In all other years, we would go to a family seder at my sister’s home and have a second seder with some family and some friends at our home. This year would be different.
We were still planning a family seder with my sister and brothers and their families … but we would not be together in the same house. We would still use the family haggadah that Lou and I put together almost 20 years ago and promised to update every year … but this year we would finally get around to changing it – keeping in all the essential rituals, eliminating many of the extra readings while adding in a few new ones that seemed especially peritnent to the current situation, and adding in questions (labeled as “Food for Thought”) to reflect on how the pandemic affected our perspective of the Passover story we read each year.
The Sunday before Passover I sent a note to my family asking if they may be interested in a family zoom seder. I promised no more than a half hour. Passover is my favorite holiday and being sheltered alone, I needed some kind of holiday. To my surprise, 90% agreed. My immediate family is twenty five people. Though my friends reserve a place at my seder table a year in advance, my family will argue to only eat and no actual seder. My house, my rules and I force the seder.
This year for the first time in many years I hosted two seders for my family. I hadn’t expected to since helping to ready the Shomrei kitchen for Passover, cleaning my own house and then preparing 4 or 5 kiddush lunches during the eight days of Passover, left me little time to host my own seder.
But as we all know, this year was different.
Shomrei members attended a session about immigration led by Reverand David Shaw of the Union Congregational Church on March 4. The session is part of the Interfaith “Break the Hate ” series developed by Union Baptist Church. Several of the people who attended share their recollections and thoughts about the evening:
Reverend David Shaw presented a concise and illuminating history of immigration and immigration restrictions. We were all reminded that, despite what Emma Lazarus’s poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty might say, the U.S. policy on immigration has been restrictive for much of our history. To be reminded of this was very disillusioning.
I also thought sharing with a small group was effective. The activity broke up the intensity of listening, made the history become real, and helped us examine our own relationship to the idea of “American.”
I was not sure what I expected from last night’s program, Impact of White Supremacy on Immigration. Each of the two previous programs seemed to be more of a reflection of the presenter’s personality, perspective, and background. As such, I am becoming more knowledgeable about the different faith communities in Montclair, the people, their history, and their spiritual perspective.
Reverend David Shaw was an engaging speaker who was comfortable in sharing his experience in coming to the United States as a ‘migrant’, the verbiage he most often used to discuss the people who come to live in the United States of America. He interspersed didactic information with allowing us to discuss our own experiences in smaller groups. This allowed us to form ties with congregants of different religious institutions throughout greater Montclair, which for me broke down the anonymity of the people attending the presentation. Indeed, in attending the three meetings of this series and being engaged in an interfaith women’s group on our town, I am beginning to recognize people who used to be strangers to me and feeling more and more connected to other participants who share common values.
History is not my strong suit, so Reverend Shaw’s review of the history of migration in the US and the evolution of our country’s attitudes to newcomers here was very informative and enhanced the discussions in the small groups.
I continue to learn not only from the people who present each evening, but from listening to the others attending the series. It is important to listen closely to our neighbors and move from being strangers, to acquaintances, and hopefully in the long term to being friends.
Several things struck me during the evening. I’ll highlight one – the discussion about who is a “real American”.
Reverend Shaw is an immigrant. He pointed out, however, that his is not the prototypical immigrant experience as he came from England. No one has ever questioned his right to be here and, now that he is a citizen, no one suggests that he is not a “real American”. This was also the experience an older gentlemen in my breakout group who came to the U.S. from Scotland about 25 years ago in response to a job offer. No one has ever suggested that he was taking a job away from a “real American”. Although he speaks with a noticeable Scottish accent, everyone he meets assumes that he is a U.S. citizen (which he is not) – a “real American”. I couldn’t help contrasting this with my family’s immigration experience as Jews fleeing from Eastern Europe or with how refugees and asylum seekers are being treated.
Click here for information about additional Break the Hate sessions
Photographs: Courtesy of Union Baptist Church
The Census is mandated every 10 years by the Constitution. It is intended to count every person residing in the United States, regardless of age, status or citizenship.
The federal government will allocate $675 billion dollars each year over the next 10 years. The Census affects how those funds get distributed among states to fund education, healthcare, food and nutrition, transportation, affordable housing, and other services. Census data is also used to redraw legislative districts and determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. On a local level, Census data is used to make decisions about projects and plan for the future.
Shomrei members attended a session Entitled “The Impact of White Supremacy on Antisemitism” presented by Rabbi Elliot Tepperman at Bnai Keshet on February 26. The session is part of the Interfaith “Break the Hate ” series developed by Union Baptist Church. Several of the people who attended share their recollections and thoughts about the evening: