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The Rabbi's message for February


As I write this, Americans have just celebrated Martin Luther King weekend, and we Canadians are entering Black History Month. As Jews, this is an important time for us to do self-reflection, and check in on our efforts about thinking about race. I know how hard this might feel in the middle of the war in Israel, but it is still vitally important. These remarks were made in my Yom Kippur sermon back in 2019, but they still ring true today: "In all my life no one has ever said to me: “Funny you don’t look Jewish!” And I bet that’s true for many if not most of us. But it’s not true for all of us. It’s not true for Mizrachi Jews or for Jews from Sephardic backgrounds, and it’s not true for Jews of Colour, Asian Jews, or Jews with Indigenous backgrounds… We may argue that “we Jews are, after all, not really white,” but that statement is only true for Jews of colour. The rest of us can claim that we may not have all the privileges of white majority Christians, and our “internal identity” may be different, but most of us still have a white experience externally, in the world. That racism privileges whites does not mean that individual white people—and in this case especially Jews— do not struggle or face barriers. But while we may have faced and still face the barriers of anti-Semitism, we do not face the barriers of racism... The opposite of a racist is not, “not a racist”. To be the opposite of racist is to be anti-racist.” I feel confident that over the next few years, City Shul will do the hard work of going beyond programming and moving into serious anti-racism work, so that Black History Month becomes a strong part of our current Jewish identity.

Rabbi Dr. Elyse Goldstein

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Sat, February 24 2024 15 Adar I 5784