Drash for Shabbat Sukkot 5777 by Imani Romney-Rosa & Roberta Samet

Open together:

♫“We who believe in freedom cannot rest...we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” x2♫

Imani:  Coincidentally, both the Rabbi HHD drash and ours center on antiracist activism and “the people we call white” as our themes. Sukkot is a time of harvest and I deeply believe that we reap what we sow and what we nurture. This is a time of celebration and gratitude and I am deeply grateful for your friendship and the solidarity you show as we work together to create greater racial equity. 

Roberta: During this Torah portion, Gd and Moses have a conversation about who will lead and who will follow.  As my friend and co-anti racist conspirator, we have had so many frank and difficult conversation that have created trust and love between us.  So that when G-d and Moses talk about

Who will follow, we started talking about leadership in an anti racist context.

Imani: There is an aboriginal saying: that I have come to love and appreciate. To me, it encapsulates the reason we have become such good friends. It reads:

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

Bobbie: My liberation is bound up in knowing that unless I walk with you, and listen closely, that I too am not liberated. 

ImaniI am taken by this passage in Exodus 33:12 & 15, by the negotiating between Moses and Gd. And we have seen this in their relationship before but I am struck by how bound together they seem.

Imani:  33:12. Moses said to G-d, “See, You say to me, ‘Lead this people forward,’ but You have not made known to me whom You will send with me.

Bobbie: 33:15. And Moses says to Him, “Unless You go in the lead, do not make us leave this place.

Bobbie:  So, I am taken by “who will You send with me?”  Questions arise such as:  What place are we leaving nowadays when we speak about leaving this place?  White supremacy?  Our unconscious training that as people who call themselves white, that we know the answers?

Imani: I see white privilege as the place of comfort, the place you won’t leave. It is free from the many fears and injustices that are the daily bread of un-white people. It's a place where fighting isn't required based on race. Of course white people don't want to leave that place. We all have places in our day and in our lives where we have to work so hard to show up, stand up and stand tall. No one wants to invite more struggle, even if you haven't earned the privileges you have.

But I cannot walk away from the struggle, the reality. It is not optional for me. I want to know, will you send anyone with me?

Bobbie: I agree that this is how my life works.  I learned this weekend, when I retook the Undoing Racism workshop , literally on the heels of YK, what I  gain from this arrangement of white supremacy.   

When we were asked, “What do we like about being white?”  The answers, sometimes coming with embarrassment, sometimes with great discomfort, included lack of fear of police, safety in our neighborhoods, not being followed….you can fill in the rest from your own experience.  POC talked about their music, their shapely bodies, their brown color, their families, their food.  Those of us who call ourselves white felt a bit like cardboard.

Nothing wrong with either list.  But while we as those who call ourselves white have gained so much in this arrangement of white supremacy, we have lost so much.  And nothing wrong with all we have gained, except, shouldn't all people have that lack of fear in their lives?  Your liberation is bound up with mine, Imani, so let’s work together. 

Imani: Yes, we should. Will you go with me? 

Bobbie: Yes, I will go with you. 

Imani:  And I know you, Bobbie, you drank the anti-racist kool aid, you expect me to lead, you want me to lead, you trust me to lead.

What is in that Kool aid?

Bobbie: I heard it over and over again in the training from both white and Black anti racist organizers that white people need to take leadership from POC, and trust that they know both the issues in their communities and the solutions.  What they often lack are the power and resources to realize them. 

I stand on the shoulders of these people. 

Imani: So G-d tells Moses he wants him to lead, and also supplies him with a formidable list of principles to lead with.  Hence, the 10 Commandments.  I think about the work that you and I have undertaken, both together and separately and I wonder what it would look like if we wrote a set of commandments that would serve as a support for our continued work. And these would not be the same ones we got at birth. 

Bobbie: You mean the color-blind ones?

Imani:  Perhaps the first set shattered for a reason, maybe due to the inequities of white supremacy. What do you think those commanded?

Bobbie: Shattered.  What is shattered?  Was this the first tablet?

1. We as Jews will struggle for racial justice as long as we are comfortable? 

2.  We will lead the movement for racial justice because we “know” how to do it?

3.  We were slaves in the land of Egypt so we know the way out…..why haven’t you figured it out?

4.  My Jewish history of oppression makes me understand yours

5. I love your culture and artifacts so I will appropriate them and enjoy them as mine

6.  I will let you come on this journey out of oppression with us as long as you play by my rules

7.  We are the chosen people, we are the only ones chosen

(Look up and ask congregation:)  “Got more?”

Imani:  In the HHD liturgy we read these words, “When will redemption come?

Bobbie: And the response is, “When we grant to every person the rights we claim for ourselves.”(Sharei Tshuvah, p 103)

The song by Samuel L. Jackson)-I can’t hear my neighbor crying “I can’t breathe”. Now I’m in the struggle and I can’t leave. Calling out the violence of the racist police. We ain’t gonna stop ‘til people are free. We ain’t gonna stop ‘til people are free.”♫

Imani:  So what are the new 10 commandments?:


by Bobbie Samet and Imani Romney-Rosa

B: 1) Acknowledge that I live in a race based society and that I am white

B: 2) Spend time with other white people understanding how white privilege oppresses POC

I: 3) Get behind the leadership of POC with your resources and power

I: 4) Follow our lead

I: 5) Trust that we know our own stories and listen (don't defend/explain, etc) when we choose to share them.

B: 6) Know in my bones that this racial arrangement is Un-Godly

B: 7) In the face of that which challenges our anti racist commitment, know that our true safely lies in embracing our Judaism and joining forces with Black and Brown people. 

I: 8) Don’t touch my hair, no seriously

More commandments added by Kolot members

•I am a person of color. 

•Don't let fear of other and hatred of self get in the way of human relationship and connection with all!

• observe police activity

• there is no need to rank all the ways people experience oppression – there's no need to make a hierarchy

• don't exoticize me or befriend me simply because of that which makes me different. xI am human before I am anything else.

• have REAL, DEEP, MEANINGFUL conversations with people different than you.

• be prepared and willing to give up your seat of power to bring a new voice to the table.

• Believe that you have been living in the dream, that conditions you to not see the power of over arching white supremacy.

• Move on from your mistakes. Don't retreat, get discouraged, or process them endlessly. Learn from them, apologize, and keep showing up.

• Don't assume. Do ask. Every experience of suffering is different. Respect others experience.

• You will walk with a stranger.

• Truly feel the other in yourself – – yourself in the other.

• Speak when a white person is given priority in the store – sidewalk – subway car – over nonwhite person. Say “wasn't he/she first?”

• Don't make assumptions about people of color.

• (From white person) stop interrupting

• (From white person) stop being so uncomfortable around black and brown people

• you're going to make mistakes

• look each other in the eye with openness

• listen

• value work that prioritizes intersectionality and an awareness of the ways race and class intersect.

• understand that allyship is a process and is never complete

• tolerate your anxiety and stay in the conversation.

• know and acknowledge that there's so much you don't know.

• in crowded places, be friendly and warm with brown and black people.

• don't assume that all people of color experience oppression in the same way.

• Black people fighting for freedom in the US can bring freedom for white Jews too.

© 2017 Kolot Chayeinu | Voices of Our Lives