When Moses saw the burning bush, he had three qualities that made him into the leader he was: an allergy to oppression, a willingness to respond, and a radical curiosity.
It was a Shabbat morning text study, at the beginning of the Or Tzedek program this past summer. Over the course of the next week or so, all 11 of us would become increasingly like Moses. Learning about different social issues, we discovered and developed our own allergies to oppression. Seeing inequality in Chicago made us angry. We were angry when we saw countless burning bushes buried deep inside the city. We were mad when we learned about how domestic workers didn’t have many rights that we considered to be fundamental. When we learned about immigration and saw families waiting in line at the deportation center, we cried.
It was a week full of anger, and frustration, but also one filled with action and hope. We turned our thoughts and our frustrations into actions and prayers. We organized our own prayer vigil for a trauma center on the South Side. We wrote a speech about workers rights and talked with the chief of staff of an Illinois state senator. From the JCUA staff, we learned how to organize people into action and how to be allies.
Most of all, we were radically curious. We never stopped asking questions. Why is Chicago so segregated? Why are the most segregated neighborhoods the ones with the most poverty? Why do these neighborhoods have less access to fresh, healthy, food? Why did the most schools close in the neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates? Why are the areas of the city with the most shooting deaths also the areas where there is little or no access to trauma centers? Why, why why? What does Judaism say about this? As Jews, are we obligated to help? If so, what do we do? Read the rest of this entry »