The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Saturday, April 13, 2024
The Jewish Observer

JCRC: We Are All In This Together, March 2024

Jewish thought leaders have theorized that Jewish laws and traditions, specifically the commandment to honor Shabbat, are among the first time in human history that social justice constructs were created to provide equal access to leisure for all people, not only for the wealthy and powerful. Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, a leader in the Reform Movement, teaches, 

Just as Shabbat calls us to provide rest for the earth, it reminds us that rest for human beings is an imperative of social justice. Shabbat reminds us that we are children of God (created in God’s image), not instruments of Pharaoh or any other oppressor. The connection between Shabbat and freedom from the slavery of Egypt is first made in the Torah, Deuteronomy 5:13–15 

The Jewish commitment to social justice is an ongoing effort, beginning from the time of the exodus from Egypt and continuing to modern times. To understand our historic and continued passion for the work of justice, it is critical to comprehend the concept of justice, or tzedek, in Jewish tradition. Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof; Justice, justice shall you pursue. The Jewish concept of justice stresses equality, the idea that every human life has equal value. In Jewish life the attainment of justice is critical to the attainment of holiness.  

The JCRC Social Justice Seder celebrates these values and ideals and supports the work of seeking justice, as our tradition demands.  The event this year will be Thursday, April 11 at the Gordon JCC with special guest, Rabbi Tamar Manasseh. Rabbi Manasseh is a Jewish author and advocate, and subject of the film based on her book, “They Ain’t Ready for Me,” which documents her advocacy work to create safe and resilient community on the streets of Chicago, her hometown. Raised as both authentically Jewish and authentically African American, Rabbi Manasseh bridges these cultures in meaning and impact. She brings her Jewish tradition to the streets through public outdoor Sukkot and Passover celebrations, in which all are invited, included, respected, and welcomed. We seek to do the same with the JCRC Seder. 

Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Sherith Israel Congregation invited Rabbi Manasseh to Nashville last year, and I was fortunate to be at Sherith Israel the Shabbat morning in which she addressed the congregation. Her charisma was palpable, and her presence as a Black woman rabbi addressing the congregation was mesmerizing. She is a force of nature. In addition to Sherith Israel, Rabbi Manasseh spoke at several other local congregations during her visit, and she was immediately our choice of leader for the 2024 JCRC Seder, and we are blessed and honored that she will lead our Seder meal.  

After the events in Nashville on Shabbat morning, February 17, when a group of masked men paraded through the streets of downtown Nashville carrying swastika flags and chanting hateful anti-immigrant and antisemitic propaganda, joining with our community allies to demand safety, and build resilience, is more critical than ever. We cannot stand idly by and let those who seek to hurt, harass, and intimidate us. We must stand ever more proudly in our tradition and open our hearts to others seeking the same.   

Register for the JCRC Social Justice Seder:

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