Power, Politics, Publishing and Mourning

This past week’s topics are among the thorniest and right at the heart of cross-community dialogue involving people and groups identifying as Black, Jewish, or both. In addition to works mention above, here are a few more resources on this topic. Further to readings for week five –.

Power, Politics, and Publishing

Eric K. Ward’s 2017 “Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism” (available on-line at PoliticalResearch.org and other sites) provides essential research, including some participant-observation. Also available: many related video and audio programs. In addition, Ward directs the Western States Center, which provides many resources.

Marc Dollinger’s 2018 Black Power, Jewish Politics, cited above (Days 22, 23) is from an academic press and so still not available cheaply. But libraries do have copies (DC Public Library has four, e.g.), and a variety of interviews and discussions of the book’s topics are widely available in audio and video. Also of interest is the 2020 preface the author wrote for a new edition of the book, a piece first accepted then rejected by Brandeis Press:

Without surprise, perhaps, we are already bearing witness to some pushback against contemporary calls for racial equality. Even as this book details Jewish organizational leaders who downplayed the significance and threat posed by antisemitism among some in the Black community in the mid-1960s, contemporary Jews have raised alarm bells over the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and at times antisemitic statements of some Black activists. Even as rabbinic student and national JOC leader Evan Traylor has advised otherwise, white Jewish fears have grown so pronounced that they sometimes have threatened to end support for anti-racism work even before it begins.

Other times, white Jews demand that Black civil rights leaders repudiate their colleagues as a pre-condition for activism. I can report anecdotally that these white Jewish concerns have grown so large that they soon became the most-oft asked question in each and every one of my community-based Jewish social justice lectures, whether or not the subject of the Black Lives Matter movement was included in the talk. Will white Jews make their support for racial equality contingent on Black support for the State of Israel and Zionism? — full piece at https://marcdollinger.com/new-preface/

Mourning and the Omer

These passages are just small parts of two very differently useful resources:

from Seasons of Our Joy:

The rabbis decided that the counting of the 49 days should continue even after the wave-offerings had been prevented by the destruction of the Temple. Sometime during the next seven centuries, the 49 days took on a tone of a limited, moderate mourning.

As the connection of the omer with agriculture grew more remote, the sense of the period as one of spiritual growth toward receiving Torah grew stronger….In this atmosphere the omer became a time of self-scrutiny and spiritual self-improvement.
Arthur Waskow, Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays (Boston:Beacon, 1982), p.168

from Torah in a Time of Plague:

The use of collective mourning to force change…works because it is in conversation with a prior tradition and model of mourning….The Jewish calendar does not [generally] add periods of mourning. Rather, it chooses which past tragedy provides an effective frame and layers tragedies one on top of the other to mourn them simultaneously.”

In living through the pandemic and envisioning our collective response to Covid-19, Jews willb e able to draw upon different models for mourning this mass tragedy. What is clear is that we must relate to it as mourners if we hope to correct the flaws in our societies that led to such massive and unequal suffering.
Sara Labaton, “Collective Tragedy and the Jewish Politics of mourning” IN Torah in a Time of Plague: Historical and Contemporary Jewish Responses, Erin Lei Smokler, ed (Ben Yehuda Press, 2021), p.129

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