Gun Violence is a Social Justice Issue

By Frank Goldsmith, CJJ-West

Let’s talk about gun violence.

Admittedly, curbing the epidemic of firearms fatalities has not been at the forefront of Carolina Jews for Justice’s concerns. But how can an organization committed to social justice abstain from commenting on this tragic, and largely preventable, loss of life?  

The Torah teaches that we are not to stand idly by the blood of our neighbor:  lo ta-amod al-dam re’ekha (Lev. 19:16). The blood of our neighbors is flowing all too freely as the result of gun violence, and we must not be indifferent. Why should American blood flow more freely than that of any other civilized nation?

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Tisha B'av: Transforming Grief into Action

This year on August 11, Carolina Jews for Justice/West sponsored a program on Tisha B’Av, a traditional Jewish day of mourning, at Congregation Beth Israel in Asheville; it is a time when Jews around the world remember some of the greatest tragedies of our history. Tisha B’Av also presents us with the opportunity to reflect on contemporary atrocities, and this year we are particularly compelled to reflect on the violent and dehumanizing treatment of immigrants and refugees in the U.S. – a modern day catastrophe that demands our attention, our voice, and our action. Action steps were discussed to enable those present to become actively engaged in efforts to support immigrants and refugees in our country. Following the service, CJJ/West Steering Committee member Frank Goldsmith looks on as Rabbi Justin Goldstein shows a Torah scroll to Magaly Urdiales, one of the speakers who represented the immigrant communities, and her son Joaquin.

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#WeAreHere: Fighting Hate and Finding Home

By Emma Cohn, CJJ Board Member

A week ago on Shabbat, I found myself on a farm in western North Carolina with 28 other Southern Jews talking about white nationalist mushrooms.

I was sitting on a patch of grass at Yesod Farm and Kitchen, a teaching farm and spiritual center in Fairview, a small town in the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains. I was there for the #WeAreHere retreat, a training held by the social action organization Carolina Jews for Justice to teach community organizers from across North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee how to lead workshops on white supremacy, white nationalism, and antisemitism. Light stuff.

But I was also there in search of a home.

 

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Storytelling and Song: A Response

A response to Keaton Hill’s reflection by Dr. Walter Ziffer

Dear Keaton,

I want to make an observation based on my own experience and by doing so emphatically support what you quote from Adichie, that story telling and song are able to encourage people's lower instincts such as maltreatment of "the other" and all kind of malignant behavior, etc. The Nazis were masters of using false stories and rousing song that influenced even my sister and myself to the point where we admired the SS marching by and singing beautifully, I must admit, songs that aroused within the listeners hatred and Nazi supremacist ideology. What I am trying to say is that the "cognitive" aspect you mention is all important because it is that aspect that determines whether the story telling and the song are for the good or for evil. It is the substance, in my opinion, that is the determining factor whether what is done is for the good or for evil. Singing and singing with passion is the mode of transmission only! Important, of course, but still only the instrument of transmission.

And that, of course, brings me to the mode of how Torah is being transmitted. Rabbi Sacks, kol hakavod, is an important Jewish wiseman whom I respect but...the best way of transmitting Torah is by living it. I am not at all sure that the good rabbi makes a distinction between meaningful and constructive Torah and much that actually tends to be a teaching that encourages dispossession of one's neighbor and dehumanization. That, too, is  found in the Torah. The latter, to my chagrin, is also being chanted, often passionately, on many a Shabbat in synagogues around the globe. So, as Judaism is concerned, let us guard from being over enthusiastic with passionately singing Torah. In my opinion, Torah is a human product (Sacks would not agree!) with much that is admirable and of great and timeless value but also with much that is value limited because of its human and therefore limited outlook.

Let me assure you, that this is in no way a criticism of your meditation. I value your thought and words. This is simply a word of caution from a Jew who has seen the many faces of Judaism.

Fondly,

Walter

CJJ Statement on Expanding Public Transportation (Asheville)

The Asheville City Council will be voting on the budget on June 11. CJJ strongly supports a move to expand the public transportation service and an increase of the wages of city workers. Please contact the Council and the City Manager to encourage these changes.

More information on contacting the Council can be found here, and all members can be emailed at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov. Additionally, information on contacting the City Manager can be found here. See the letter below for talking points and a general template.

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Storytelling and Song: A Reflection

By Keaton Hill, CJJ-West

In the past few weeks a few CJJ events have revealed the power of storytelling and song.

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GOP Math Doesn’t Add Up: A Letter to the Editor

There are many humane and moral reasons to expand Medicaid in North Carolina. However, it is the Republican opposition’s refusal to acknowledge the financial benefits of Expansion that is completely confusing. The Republicans in the North Carolina legislature argued that our state Medicaid budget was too unpredictable, so we needed to reform Medicaid. That legislation was passed and Medicaid is now transforming into a managed-care system. Why then, is the current Republican leadership ignoring the billions of dollars, the thousands of jobs that would come to North Carolina if we were to expand Medicaid? Why are they ignoring that new enrollees under expansion would be covered at a 90% Federal dollar reimbursement rate as opposed to the current enrollee reimbursement of 67%? Why is the leadership ignoring the fact that North Carolinians’ tax dollars are used to pay for Medicaid Expansion in the 37 states that decided the working poor deserve health insurance? It makes zero sense. Beg your Republican legislators to Expand Medicaid. The time is now.

"A Better World" Interview

By Marlene Jacoby, CJJ-West

Originally published in the May 14, 2019 edition of the Asheville Citizen Times.

From Queer Spy to Community Organizer: Fighting for Justice in Many Forms

Before joining the staff of Carolina Jews for Justice as one of our new statewide community organizers, Cole Parke spent five years working as the LGBTQ & Gender Justice Researcher at Political Research Associates, a Boston-based think tank dedicated to researching, exposing, and interrupting the Right Wing. Of the many insights gained during their tenure at PRA, one lesson that repeated itself over and over again was this: it's all connected. The Christian Right's attack on LGBTQ people and reproductive justice is fundamentally linked to the antisemitism, anti-Black racism, and Islamophobia fueled by White Nationalists. During a recent presentation at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, NC, Cole discussed these connections and the imperative for greater unity across the many struggles for justice. What follows is an adaptation of their remarks from April 5, 2019.

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CJJ supports the Holocaust Education Bill

April 2, 2019

Carolina Jews for Justice supports the Holocaust Education Bill (HB 437), and affirms Holocaust education as a necessary part of opposing antisemitism, white supremacy, and intertwined systems of oppressions. We stand at a liminal moment, when soon there will be no living Holocaust survivors to share their experience firsthand. A major atrocity is moving from memory to history, and we see it as a moment to ask publicly: what is our role in remembering and teaching about genocide, fascism, and violent nationalism?

The Torah shares a story of the Israelites at a similar historical junction. As the Israelites prepare to build a society after slavery in Egypt, God issues what seems like a paradoxical commandment regarding the Amalekites, who were oppressive enemies of the Jews and are often representative of systemic antisemitism. God orders us to “Blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” For centuries Jews have asked how we can possibly erase the memory of our oppressors but not forget it?

Today, Carolina Jews for Justice understands that the cycles of oppression that repeat and damage us and our allies are interrelated, and we must both end and learn from them. We can never forget the Holocaust; indeed, it was a tragedy that irrevocably and permanently changed what it means to organize against antisemitism. We know its memory still hurts us when neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville and swastikas are spray-painted on our places of worship. Every single member of our society should learn the clear lesson of the Holocaust: that antisemitism can erupt with massive deadly consequences. But we also say that blotting out the legacy of the Holocaust alone – fighting against neo-Nazis, but not Islamophobia, teaching about Nazi genocide, but not about white supremacy – is not enough. We are given a two-part commandment: to erase and to remember. CJJ applauds this effort permanently to include Holocaust education in our state’s curriculum, and we also name this as one step on a path we are excited to keep walking with our allies. At the end lies a time when we will have blotted out the name of our shared oppressors, and when we will remember the ways we each brought our specific histories to help fight collective enemies.