I write to you from Atlanta. A few hundred Reform Rabbis have gathered for our annual study conference. Many American Rabbis arrived feeling weary, depressed by the political landscape and anxious about the swift rise in anti-Semitism. We took comfort, instruction, and inspiration from a panel of three local leaders – Atlanta’s Mayor, Kasim Reed and two ministers from Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Reverend Natosha Reid Rice and Reverend Raphael Warnock.
Mayor Reed sees that democracy expands and contracts. “We are now in a period of contraction. The role of people of faith is to hold the frame.” When democracy is being threatened and civil rights are compromised, hatred is given permission to emerge from the dark corner where it used to cower. The job of people of faith, according to Mayor Reed, is to protect the frame of decency by being on the look out for those who cross the lines and being prepared to clarify were are the boundaries of goodness.
Reverend Rice quoted Coretta Scott King who said, “If we are to save the soul of the country, we may very well have to become the soul of the country.” And Dr. Warnock taught a Christian parable that Hope has two daughters and both of them are beautiful: Anger and Courage. Anger allows us to see things as they really are and Courage makes sure they do not remain as they are.
Our congregation is holding the frame.
We hold the frame for Refugee Relief. Two hundred volunteers are sensitively and sensibly working to resettle Syrian refugee families. If you are able to join them as we prepare to welcome two Yazidi families, please contact Jacqueline Friedland.
We hold the frame for local Poverty Reduction. This Pesach other congregants will share the Feast of Freedom with some of our city’s most vulnerable. Make good on the declaration of our Haggadah: “Let all who are hungry come and eat!” At round tables we’ll exchange new stories of “degradation and praise.”
We hold the frame for Israel. As Israel’s 69th birthday approaches, we’ll learn how to “hold the frame” for Israel. Tonight our Shinshinim, Gil and Noga, present the controversial film “Gatekeepers.” Professors Gil Troy and Gabi Ben Dor will reflect on what new protections Israel may need in the age of President Trump. On the Shabbat before Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Consul General Galit Baram will address the congregation and reflect on the fiftieth anniversary of The Six Day War.
We hold the frame for Racial Justice. On May 10, Journalist Desmond Cole, film director Charles Officer, and producer Jake Yanowski will challenge us to see how white privilege and racial discrimination still has a hold on our city, our country. Their documentary The Skin We’re In will open our eyes to bigotries we thought were long gone.
We hold the frame for Gender Equity. Joann Lublin addresses the stubborn inequalities stacked against professional women and how to navigate and overcome them.
We hold the frame for Religious Freedom. The seven Rings of Peace around seven local mosques came as a spontaneous response to the Quebec City shooting. The public display of “holding the frame” earned global recognition and was acknowledged by leaders of every level of our government, including the Prime Minister himself. Now the more nuanced work of building grassroots relationships across interfaith lines has begun. If you’d like to be involved in this essential work, please contact Rabbi Satz at [email protected].
We hold the frame for our own Jewish community. We feel anti-Semitism on the rise. The response is quiet and constant. Every level of government and law enforcement has reached out to our congregation with reassurance that attention is being paid and resources are being deployed to protect the Jewish communities across the country. There is also the quiet, but equally fierce protection coming from parents and grandparents. Preparing our teens for what they might encounter on campus is one thing. Comforting a child who is evacuated from school when the JCC receives a bomb threat is another. These are new challenges as families sit around their dinner tables.
These are challenging times. With all our blessings, there is still much work to be done on so many fronts. Because of our many blessings, we are uniquely able to respond to the call to hold the frame. When we do so with a synagogue community, the work takes the tone and colour of the sacred. Our vocabulary of courage is inflected with sacred text. Our deeds of justice are set against the backdrop of our people’s history. And our gathering in community is graced with the presence of The Holy One.