I have a confession. I was one of those people. When I first heard “Black Lives Matter” I thought, what do you mean? All lives matter. Unlike some of our former elected officials, I kept my mouth shut until I was able to process it and figure out what people were saying. People I respected supported the movement, so I thought it must be meaningful. I heard leaders speak on TV and they seemed bright and well-spoken.
And of course, I always thought black lives do matter. My heart would ache every time a news story would pop up about the death of a young, and not so young, black man or woman by the hand of a police officer. With each video that would pop up, I would see a policeman shooting a man in the back, I would see a woman being pulled out of a car by her hair and tossed around –- this I would see more than once. I would hear stories about men being handcuffed in the back of vans, see beautiful faces shot by someone “standing their ground,” and see videos of cops shooting to kill. I would rail on social media about the need for restraint and better training of police.
I am guided by the biblical words, Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof – Justice, justice you will pursue (Deut. 16:20). So it didn’t really matter whether I fully understood words because I believed in the sentiment. I was struggling to think of an analogy. Then I remembered an incident when I felt marginalized. When I felt that my struggles and the struggles of those before me were smoothed over for ease of discussion.
A few years ago I was at services during Hebrew school. The rabbi leading services asked the students to share something about their Pesach seder. One student talked about having an orange on his seder plate. When the rabbi asked what the purpose of the orange was the student said that it was to recognize women. At that point, I thought, NOOOO!!!! It’s not to recognize women. It’s to recognize gay and lesbian Jews who have felt marginalized in our communities. (See below for a more detailed explanation.) I had an email exchange with the rabbi later, explaining the meaning. When he said something like, I’m not sure what I would have said, meaning, how would I have explained that it was for GLBTQ people, as if that was a bad word. I responded, that is our challenge, isn’t it?
I realized that when he agreed that it was for women, he erased the challenges that GLBTQ folks like me have had throughout the generations. And when we say All Lives Matter as a response to Black Lives Matter, we are doing the same to black people. So Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean Blue Lives don’t matter.
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I conceived this article before The Movement for Black Lives published their platform. There is much to digest there and to be sure, there is much to grieve. However, I am sorely disappointed that the platform sought to involve the “Palestinian people.” This section which is include below suggested that Israel is complicit in genocide and “Israel is an apartheid state.” I vehemently disagree with these points and find myself conflicted here. I still don’t want to see young black men and women dead. This has not changed. But I am staunch in my support for Israel. This is unwavering. I find anti-Israel sentiment and BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement is becoming a rallying call for growing antisemitism.
Yes, Black Lives Matter. But so to do Jewish Lives Matter.
So, who really matters? We all do.
Orange: Many families and congregations have begun adding an orange to the Seder plate as a way of acknowledging the role of people who feel marginalized within the Jewish community. Professor Susannah Heschel explains that in the 1980’s, feminists at Oberlin College placed a crust of bread on the Seder plate, saying, “There’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate.” Heschel adapted this practice, placing an orange on her family’s seder plate and asking each attendee to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit, and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with LGBTQ Jews and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. They spit out the orange seeds, which were said to represent homophobia.
The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.