By Rachel Beerman
At the Belonging Conference this past April, I had the privilege to co-lead the session Allyship: Creating Beloved Community Here in Buffalo with Corey Auerbach and Samantha White. It was a powerful experience to engage in conversation with so many community members about creating spaces of belonging, and to explore what allyship is and where it lives in ourselves and in our community. Especially in light of the racially motivated massacre that shook our city in May, I wanted to share some of our thoughts from the conference session with the larger community.
One important idea about community which is in both Jewish text and captured in the words of America’s Civil Rights leaders was the idea of a “beloved community.” This concept of beloved community serves as a guidepost of what is possible when we bring our most holy selves into spaces with each other.
There is a line from Song of Songs that reads, “at our door is all the best fruit, the freshly picked and the long-stored. My beloved, I will give you all that I have saved for you” (Song of Songs 7:14).
As Rabbi Kerry Olitzky says, “Song of Songs is unique among biblical texts for its pure expression of love. In the text, we see giving the best of ourselves to others.” Imagine what our community would look like if all Buffalonians chose to treat one another as beloved – to give the best of ourselves to each other every day.
This concept of a beloved community rooted in love is resonating with many in the Jewish community. In Brooklyn, NY there is a Jewish group who calls itself The Beloved Community because they felt the word beloved “emphasized the reality of our interconnectedness, and the authentic and urgent need that many people have to experience belonging, connection, and love.”
Our need to be connected, to be in relationship with others, and to unite and combine for mutual benefit, is a key part of creating the allyships that can strengthen our community.
We also find this concept of a beloved community built on love in the work of Martin Luther King Jr. who helped take the more abstract idea of a beloved community and turn it into a concrete goal, to create an America a place where everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, hunger and hate. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that love and trust would be victorious over hatred and fear, and that people can learn to work together to achieve this beloved community.
Since the racially motivated killings of May 14th, many people have been asking how we strengthen our community and ensure the legacy of the 10 who lost their lives is a legacy of healing and advancing our community. I believe we strengthen our community by working towards creating a beloved community. Martin Luther King’s beloved community requires us all to strive to remove poverty, hunger and hate from our community. Since May 14th we are seeing allyship and love in the vigils and community gatherings that have taken place; we are seeing allyship and love in the donations of time, goods and resources to organizations that are working to help the victims of the hateful and senseless attack as well as the larger Black community. We must continue coming together and striving — in ways big and small, immediate and long term — to build our beloved community here in Buffalo so that no matter who you are or where you live you have the same opportunities for health, wellbeing, and security.
In this start of the summer season of our local farmers’ abundance, we must make sure that, as is written in Song of Songs, that all the best fruit is here for all of us.
Rachel Beerman is the Racial Justice Coordinator for the Buffalo Jewish Community Relations Council.