As I have continued to evolve my own and Optimistic Anthropology’s focus around racial equity, I have been learning more deeply about the unique way that Jewish people have been both oppressed and oppressor, and also about my own Jewish identity. I was raised in American reformed Judaism movement and mixed with my family’s own values, it has always led my connection to Judaism to be cultural, intellectual, and social justice.
It feels fitting to share the powerful experience of attending the session on “Countering White Supremacy: Connecting the Dots between Anti-Black Racism and Antisemitism” with you my OA community, just a few days before the start of Chanukah. As Chanukah is not just a holiday about the miracle of the oil burning for 8 days instead of 1, but also the victory of the Jewish freedom fighters, the Maccabees, over their oppressors who wished to eliminate their religion and traditions. I have hosted a multi-cultural Chanukah celebration for more than a decade and while it is mostly feasting and fun, we do read the story of Chanukah and light the candles each year. Each year, a few people thank me because they appreciated learning about the holiday itself, and why it’s celebrated.
All of this has helped me realize that even among smart, kind, thoughtful people who are committed to justice, that the story that most Americans are exposed to about who Jews are and our traditions, culture, beliefs, history and more is very narrow and often deeply problematic. I recognize that part of that is that we only make up about 2% of the U.S. population, so it makes sense. However, I want to help change that in the small ways that I know I can.
In that spirit, in 2019, I’m going to start a new tradition. One Friday each month, I will be hosting Shabbat Dinner & Discussion in my home. I’m hoping to host a rotating crew of 5-7 people in the Optimistic Anthropology community in for an Shabbat dinner and discussion. This will include the candle-lighting, brief prayers, and a festive meal.
I’ll also aim to provide you with an opportunity to connect with new people; ask questions in a non-judgmental environment; explore connections and commonalities across cultures, religions, and ethnicities; discuss the events of the world and enjoy each other’s company. Some months may have a theme, others may be more open!
If you are interested in participating in the first of these gatherings, it will be taking place on January 4, 2018 from 6-9 pm in my home in Washington, DC. You can RSVP here. Before you do, I ask you to consider if you can commit to the following:
Bringing your joy and curiosity.
Developing your personal commitment to equity and liberation for all people – though you may be early in this journey, or have a deep experience with this work (for those who are newer to these discussions, I ask that you take time review this blog post so you understand the nuances of terms like equality, equity, and liberation).
Learning more about Judaism, and sharing from your own life and traditions.
Accepting that not all questions can be answered (whether because we can’t know everything, or because there are no clear answers).
Voicing different perspectives or interpretations is encouraged, but demeaning or criticizing those of others is not (and after a warning, you will be asked to leave).
Honoring that all at the table are invited to share from their experience, but that no one speaks for all people of their identity groups.
Helping support everyone to contribute to the conversation.
Enjoying some delicious food, including homemade challah!
Going tech free for this event!
Showing up. If you sign up and don’t show up it hurts the group, and prevents others from participating. (Recognizing extenuating circumstances).
Contributing either a beverage, side, or dessert.
Also, because of limited seats at the table, the serving of wine, and the nature of the discussion, Shabbat Dinner is only open to people who are 21+.
Have questions? Email them to me at: Alison [at] Optimisticanthro [dot] com.