Friday, September 18, 2015

The accompanying texts for Shabbat Shuvah at Virginia Tech

 Shabbat Shuvah Discussion Questions
1.      Before looking at the handouts, take a moment to discuss your current ideas about civil rights, social justice, and Jewish values. How, if at all, do they all fit together?

2.      Look at the source sheet with Scripture, Talmud, Halakha, and modern Jewish works. Which verse, poem, song, or picture do you like best or you think best encapsulates Jewish values?

3.      What narrative does this chronology of Jewish life tell? Do you think it is accurate, in accordance with your experience of Judaism and/or social action? If not, where does it divert? What would be a more accurate reflection?

4.      Take a look at the Racial Justice Definitions hand out. Is there anything on there that is new to you? What makes sense and what is confusing? Do you agree with these definitions? Why or why not?

5.      Read the poem by Yehuda Webster and Zahara Zahav. Does it resonate with you? Why or why not? What assumptions can you make about the authors based on their names and poetry alone? Do you think they’d fit in at the Virginia Tech Hillel?

6.      This conversation has been centered on racial justice and the civil rights movements of Black Americans. Does the Jewish community have a similar responsibility to protect other oppressed people? How could you use a similar approach as was discussed tonight to defend the civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community?


Leviticus 19:16, 18
You shall not go around as a talebearer among your people. Do stand idly by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a false grudge against members of your community. You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 11a
At a time when the community is suffering, no one should say, “I will go home, eat, drink, and be at peace with myself.”

Rambam (Maimonides), Mishneh Torah Hilchot De’ot 6:7
Whoever is in a position to prevent wrongdoing and does not do so is responsible for the sins of all the wrongdoers whom they might have stopped.

Scottsboro (An Excerpt) by Betsalel Friedman (1931)
Liar! You tell our children of freedom,
while day and night you lock them in chains and cells,
choke children on trees beside their fathers.
Lincoln freed grandmothers and grandfathers, you tell.

Children come out of the movies. Sometimes joy is in their eyes,
fooled by lies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
You’ve poisoned the milk that little babies drink,
poured into little hearts hate for Negro millions.

The joy in Black homes is like starved flesh:
Even when a child is born, one spends joy sparingly.
Who knows where a white ruler draws his blood?
Will he choke the neighbor’s son on a tree?

Pale is the tale of ancient Egypt
and the Hebrew children drowned in the river.
It’s 1931 with a frame-up in Scottsboro . . .
nothing like it in the history of slavery.

Strange Fruit By Billie Holiday and Abel Meeropol (1937)
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

“The Hope of How”
By Yehudah Webster and Zahara Zahav, JFREJ leaders
 “My insides are churning”
A most sacred home in flames deemed worthless, disposable
A pastor and worshipers slain, heads bowed, in the sanctuary
A mother sits in the street where her son’s soul was poured out
A world turns its back again, again, again – there is none to comfort her
A people shown their Black bodies, tears, families do not matter
How have we fallen to such disgrace?
How long will we slink away from justice?
How do we allow?
How do we hope?
How do we dance when so heavy with grief?
How do we turn to face each other?
A woman climbs where no one dared, tears down a flag of hatred
A mother refuses to back down, power yields to her demands
A wave of clergy rise up to meet resounding call for a different world
A movement plants seeds everywhere, sprouts flowers over burial ground
A black man’s cry, “I can’t breathe” amplified in the streets for all to hear
With this hope we pray that we do not reach the point of total destruction
We pray that we desist from senseless hatred and brutality
That sacred places remain holy, unstained from the blood of racism
That we do not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, taking instead honest account of our obligations
We pray that community, allyship and love forge new bridges of understanding and trust
That we continue to hope and believe in each other
Demanding as one that black lives truly do matter
All these things we pray in solidarity together
And let us say,


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