Living Fringes on the Edges of America -- Again

Four brief essays from Jews who after Pittsburgh will not “pass” as even more conventional Americans than we have been, but choose to live as visible fringes on the edges of America.  --  AW

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 1. Why are Fringes Sacred?

 The Pitttsburgh murderer attacked Jews because we were acting upon Torah's teachings, welcoming refugees fleeing from oppression. (See Deut 23:15-16).   So -- in the wake of Pittsburgh, shall we protect ourselves by abandoning our commitment to compassion? Shall we hide from others who we are, by hiding from ourselves who we are?

 That would mean hiding  from Moses and Miriam, from Amos and Jeremiah and Isaiah, from the unknown woman who first sang the Song of Songs, from Hillel and Akiba and Bruriah, from Rabbi David Einhorn of Baltimore who in the 1850s was forced by his own congregants to leave the city when he called for the abolition of slavery, from Clara Lemlich who rose unknown from a crowd of women workers to call for the great shirtwaist factory strike of 1909, from Rose Schneiderman who said only a working-class arising could prevent future Triangle Shirtwaist fires, from Martin Buber and Henrietta Szold, from Heschel and Vorspan and Kaplan, from Muriel Rukeyser and Alan Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen, from Judith Plaskow and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. 

Hiding ourselves from the Burning Bush and the Breath of Life. 

Or we can choose to be who we are, choosing to join others on the fringes of American society – along with bold Black America, brown-skinned Americans 
and Mexicans, Native Americans,  refugees and immigrants, independent-minded women, transgender aand non-binary people along with all the GLBTQ communities.

And remembering that in our tradition, it is Fringes that make the garment holy.

Why do fringes make the garment holy? Because fringes are threads of connection between our inward selves and the world beyond –reminding us that we end not with a sharp edge, a fence or a wall, but with a fuzzy mixture of “my” cloth and God’s air. 

 All the communities that live on the fringes of “America” connect us with the “Other,” the Beyond. Cut us off, and America will die of strangulation.

 --    Rabbi Arthur Waskow

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2. Wearing a Kippah

 In early 2017, I was a panelist in a program about confronting white supremacy.  My fellow panelists were an African-American woman, a Latin@ transgender people, a Native American man, and an Asian woman. 

I believe I was the last one to speak.  When it 
came my turn, I said, "There is a difference between my fellow panelists and me.  Unlike them," I said, removing my kippah, "I can pass."

It is time to stop passing.  It is time to announce loudly and clearly what side we are on and that we are not afraid.  I propose all of us wear kippot in public, at all times.  I began wearing mine two weeks after the inauguration, for just that reason.  Let's do it, and let's encourage others to do so as well.

The day we do not stand up to those who want to make us fear is the day we lose.

 --   (((Alan Wagman)))

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3. A Rabbi's Public Letter to Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

 Mr. Toomey, Your words of sympathy for the Jewish dead at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh included in Sunday's Inquirer are "crocodile tears" as you and your colleagues in the US Senate have aided-and-abetted the incitement-to-hatred of Mr. Trump.

You have voted against the welcoming of refugees and immigrants, against affordable health care for all, against the preservation of a 
sustaining earth for future generations, against the human needs of the poor whether elderly or young or working or disabled, against women (and occasionally men) who have been harassed or abused or raped by those in "power", and for the dehumanizing of "the other" -- whether Jews or Muslims or people of color or women or GLBTQ.

 Your sympathy would be better expressed and better received if your service to the people of this state included care and empathy for all in need, rather than cold-blooded disregard for the pain you have caused through your support of a corrupt president and his minions.

--   Rabbi Phyllis Berman

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4. Letter to President Trump from Pittsburgh Jewish Leaders

President Trump:

Yesterday, a gunman slaughtered 11 Americans during Shabbat morning services. We mourn with the victims’ families and pray for the wounded. Here in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we express gratitude for the first responders and for the outpouring of support from our neighbors near and far. We are committed to healing as a community while we recommit ourselves to repairing our nation.

For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.  

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.

Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted.  You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.  

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.

The murderer’s last public statement invoked the compassionate work of the Jewish refugee service HIAS at the end of a week in which you spread lies and sowed fear about migrant families in Central America. He killed Jews in order to undermine the efforts of all those who find shared humanity with immigrants and refugees.

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.

The Torah teaches that every human being is made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.

This means all of us.

In our neighbors, Americans, and people worldwide who have reached out to give our community strength, there we find the image of God.  While we cannot speak for all Pittsburghers, or even all Jewish Pittsburghers, we know we speak for a diverse and unified group when we say:

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.

Signed,

Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh Steering Committee

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Please help The Shalom Center continue to help  your work to affirm the sacred  fringes that heal our society’s deep wounds,  by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page.

With prayers and blessings for all Americans who choose to live as fringes that reach out to the Other, the Beyond ----  Arthur 

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