Recent conversations about the lack of understanding between Black and Jewish communities in the District have unopened sores which some say have festered for far too long. So what’s holding us back?
One thing that few would dispute is how little those living east or west of the river really know about one another. We have allowed ourselves to become far too provincial, xenophobic and reluctant to reach across the table, travel across the Anacostia or sit down to earnestly discuss our collective challenges. But we need to. And in the eight days during which those from the Jewish faith celebrate the miracle that undergirds Hanukkah, we would be wise to step out on faith and engage neighbors who we have unfortunately allowed to become more like strangers than fellow citizens each hoping for the same things: safe communities, schools with equal opportunities, nearby centers for healthcare and places that provide healthy food at reasonable prices.
Like other metropolitan areas across the U.S., we are a diverse collective – Christians, Muslims and Jews – and despite our differences we are, at the beginning, middle and end of the day, as Toni Morrison often noted, “more alike than unalike.”
During the height of the civil rights movement, Blacks and Jews worked, walked and fought hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, in triumph or failure, in order to make America a country that treated everyone the same – no matter what one’s faith, skin color, economic status or educational achievements may be.
One thing about Hanukkah that we can all appreciate is the emphasis on family that is part and parcel of the eight-day celebration. Families toast to life and health. Families break bread together – children join in the traditional game of dreidel. Love is shared. And the past is honored, retold by the old to the young, while the ancestors from Abraham to Sarah are given their fair due and respect.
Follow the instructions of the Torah or the Bible and be charitable to those in need. Why not make this Hanukkah one that we’ll never forget?
Let’s talk about things that matter, moving beyond the mundane to the serious, with members of the Jewish community. Be bold and invite yourself as our Jewish brothers and sisters gather around a menorah, strike a match, light the flame and … remember.