Torah for Today
Rabbi David S. Widzer
As our country continues to confront the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and protests against societal racism continue to mount, many may be wondering, “What can we do?” and “How can we respond?”
One of the first steps is deep learning. Many of us may have only a passing understanding of the underlying systemic issues. It is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves about racism and how it impacts people of color. Learning isn’t the only thing we can, and should, be doing, but it is a start. Fortunately, learning is something Judaism has valued for millennia – we’re good at it!
Reading lists about racism abound. One of the lists that has been most helpful to me comes from Rabbi Jason Rosenberg, a leader in Tampa Bay’s Jewish community. He offers these suggestions (along with his comments), among others:
"The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander. An incredible, detailed, researched look at the history of racism in the US, and how it continues to evolve until our very day.
"Between The World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A personal statement of rage and pain. Written as a letter to his son, Coates expresses what it's like to be a Black man, raising a Black boy, in a racist society. Beautifully, powerfully written, but just devastating to read.
"Waking Up White" by Debbie Irving. Irving documents her own journey towards understanding how deeply privilege has played a role in her life, and how her accepting that privilege, without responsibility, makes her complicit in our society's racism.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list – there are many other books to read and things to learn. And self-education can’t be the only thing we do to make a difference in the fight against racism. But learning is an important first step and these texts can help us start. As our prayerbook teaches, “Let us learn in order to do.”
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