By Cantor Penny Myers
I hope when protests slow down and statues come down, we embrace the “U” and “I” in the word Justice.
These are incredibly unreal times.
Had we had a Buffalo winter to simply defrost in (late) spring with full on Seders for Pesach? Dayeinu!
Had the Seders went on and we needed shorter quarantine? Dayeinu!
Had we begun to bring interfaith, gender equality, racial equity dialogues into the public conscience several decades ago? Dayeinu!
Alas, as Jews we have been diligent in our pursuit for justice, but while ‘U’ and ‘I’ , respectively, have been working for shalom we haven’t had a period such as this where the ‘U’ and ‘I’ of the word ‘justice’ was in such concert with one another as we are experiencing in our community.
I reflect upon my 45 years on this earth, most of these years spent in Buffalo, and I look at how much this community has changed.
In the late 70’s as a little girl, when my parents divorced because my father came out, he moved to Florida to live his truth more freely and the rest of us were ostracized in our Jewish community as we stayed here in Buffalo.
In the late 80’s when I was in High School a member of my school’s soccer team asked me to go to Homecoming Dance and I felt pressured by my peers to say ‘no’ because he is African American.
In the mid 90’s when my undergraduate advisor suggested that I should look into the school of sacred music and into the Cantorate, my initial thought was ‘I cannot, I am a liberal female’.
If these experiences had happened today, I doubt that the immediate responses and outward rejections would be as isolating and restricting as they once were.
In reading author Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed she says about hate or division being spread we have three choices:
1) Remain Quiet, which means we agree
2) Loudly challenge power, and work like heck to make it better
3) Take our families and leave
I believe we mustn’t be quiet, lulled into complacency nor do I believe we should leave. It is up to us to preserve all humanity and creation as one of our oldest prayers ‘Aleinu’ teaches us. When you and I work together to challenge power and work like heck for change as we see now then we can fully integrate ourselves with our neighbors.
The word ‘justice’ becomes a verb because you and I, byachad, will work to make this world a better place. Free from inequality and oppression.
Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof!
Cantor Penny Myers is a spiritual leader at Temple Beth Zion.