This week's blog post comes from Monika Flurer, Director of Marketing, Outreach, Retention and Engagement at the Levite Jewish Community Center of Birmingham.
In life we have a choice. White or wheat? Fries or a salad? Bacon or Turfaken? Kosher or traif? Equality or imbalance? See the hate, or pretend not to notice?
When is it time to stand up and make a choice for ourselves or someone else? In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites, after being denied passage through Edom, made a choice. When given the same push back from Sihon, they chose to move forward and fight. They fought for the land and made it their own, so that we could have the land we know as Israel today.
Do you think all of the Israelites agreed that this fight was the right fight? What about those people that wanted to look away, or conform to the culture rather than make it their own? “Blend in” if you will. Not cause any trouble or conflict.
What if we, as a people did not fight for what we needed or believed in? What if we closed our doors and kept our cultures and lifestyles separate instead of opening them to everyone? What if we did not fight for equality and face hate head on, changing the world as we know it today for a better future? Could we be like the Israelites and create a new future?
The answer, of course, is yes. Sitting in this room, we have already made a choice to open our doors and welcome everyone. We have decided that together we are stronger than we would be apart, regardless of orientation, race, religion, and so forth. However, outside of this room, what are we doing to continue our “fight?” When we observe something we may disagree with, or someone facing hate or harm, do we stand up and fight for what is right, what we believe in? The hope is that, like Moses and the Israelites, we are continuing the fight. Standing up for what we believe in is not just a discussion, but a continuous action, a lifestyle. We are the leaders in equality, preparing the land of Birmingham – or wherever we may be – for our future full of less hate, less fight, and more equality.
A few nights ago, Tuesday, June 23rd, to be exact, I read this D'Var Torah at our second SOJOURN (the Southern Jewish Network for Sexual and Gender Diversity) Birmingham Task Force meeting. I prefaced the reading that I find writing D'Var's challenging and that I might not be that good at it, but, like any challenge, I faced it head on. I am happy to say that not only did it feel great to share my D'Var Torah, but it was accepted with appreciation from my fellow task force members.
I took this thought of appreciation and also a little doubt, with me throughout the meeting. We started going through a long list of vocabulary relative to our cause. I admit I felt a little cocky, thinking that I might "ace" the "test." After all, I spent the past years immersed in what I would consider a not-so-secular culture. I spent my late nights with people of really any sexual orientation. I felt that I was equal with everyone around me. The thought that I might think someone was so different they could not share the same joys in life as I could never really crossed my mind. I realize that this mindset is the part I play on the SOJOURN Task Force. Not everyone shares this mentality. Actually, some people are the polar opposite of my way of thinking.
We followed what I found to be a wonderful discussion around vocabulary with our fears on facing equality in Birmingham. My first thought was violence. My second thought was facing myself. I think with any challenge or major change, even when it is not a change focused on oneself, there is a personal growth that comes with it. I'm not sure where my experience with the SOJOURN Task Force will take me, but I look forward to experiencing the journey.