By Jenn Ross
My heart is heavy as I’m writing this column. The violence in the Middle East has caused loss of life and disrupted the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.
My prayer is that the cease-fire announced on May 20 is still in effect and permanent peace in Israel will be achieved in the near future. Thank you to everyone who attended the Pro-Israel Peace Rally the evening of the announcement and thank you to all of my fellow organizers, our amazing supportive speakers, and The Silver Academy for creating signs of hope and for singing the National Anthem and Hatikva.
In the U.S., the current conflict has caused substantial, but hopefully not irreparable, damage to interfaith relations and community outreach efforts, and has severely polarized the American Jewish community. Atiya Aftab, co-founder of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom asked in her May 19 article whether she “should walk away” from interfaith work. Fortunately, her conclusion was, “It may be easier for me to retreat or re-route, but I choose a different path. The path that is challenging and risky, but which can lead to profound change. I will not walk away.” I hope that others will be as resolute as her. Read the full article, “Testing the (Inter)Faith: Should I Walk Away?” on American Muslim Today’s website.
Having empathy for others is crucial at this time. This spring, I participated in the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s 21 Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge to become a better ally, leader, friend, and human being. The breadth of knowledge was substantial. Some items which particularly stood out for me was a better understanding of the depth and trauma of micro-aggressions, how to be more supportive when people are under attack, and how to focus my efforts as an ally. This training caused me to rethink some decisions and behaviors.
Our Jewish community is embarking on a wonderful collaborative initiative, Kulanu: Exploring our Jewish Diversity involving many of our synagogues and Jewish Institutions.
This initiative will offer training on a variety of issues to help us be more welcoming individuals and institutions. The hope is that these programs will help inspire ongoing activities which will build upon what we learn. Kulanu means “all of us.” I love being part of this community with you because you are my family. We want to ensure that individuals, particularly people who have felt “othered,” feel like they are part of a larger, caring, community.
Thank you to the Cultural Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Central Pennsylvania for providing generous seed funding for Kulanu. The first program will be held via Zoom on Sunday, June 17 at 7:30pm. Rabbi Lauren Tuchman will teach us how to be more inclusive of Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. You can register now at www.jewishharrisburg.org/tuchman.
What efforts have you been involved in to develop deeper empathy and relationships in our broader community? I’d love to hear about it. You can reach me at 717-236-9555 x3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you participated in the 21 Day Challenge, I’d love to compare notes! Be well.