By Julie Bank
In a moment when we were without words, we gathered in community and found strength from our leaders who managed to speak of light during a time of darkness.
As the Board Chair of the Jewish Center for Justice, Sunday’s briefing with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was not the event I had in mind. We spent weeks working with the lieutenant governor and other elected officials to create a forum to address issues of concern for the Jewish community and for the future of the State of California, from affordable housing to homelessness to health care to LGBTQ equality. When we woke up on Saturday morning, one day before our event, we had no idea that our community would be changed forever.
Committed to our pursuit of justice and to the ideals of our Jewish tradition, we entered synagogue on Sunday morning — just 24 hours later — with pain in our hearts and tears in our eyes. But there was no other place we wanted to be and no other thing we wanted to do than to be in a house of worship and work with elected officials to create a brighter future.
Before Lt. Gov. Newsom spoke to the community, the JCJ Board gathered with the Lt. Gov., clergy from Valley Beth Shalom and other elected officials including California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, State Senator Bob Hertzberg, LA City Controller Ron Galperin, and LAUSD VP Nick Melvoin. We sat down and the Lt. Gov asked one simple question: “How are you feeling?” We opened our hearts to him in that moment. We voiced our sorrow about the tragic deaths of 11 innocent Jews who were exercising their right to pray in their sanctuary on their sacred day of rest, and our fears of the rising anti-Semitism in our country.
During our conversation, the sanctuary at Valley Beth Shalom, one not so different from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, began to fill with people who needed to come together and mourn. As we sat in that sanctuary, we looked around and marveled at the presence of our youth. The room was full of JCJ Teen Fellows, Southern California board members and participants from the North American Federation of Temple Youth, and College Fellows from USC, UCLA and UCSB. Lt. Gov. Newsom spoke directly to them about moral leadership and being the change in the world that is needed at this moment in time. And in our grief, we didn’t shy away from the importance that brought us together that day.
We were reminded that each of us has the power to house the homeless, feed the hungry, END GUN VIOLENCE and battle rising anti-Semitism. Each of our voices — young and old alike — has power and must be used to make change in our world. Our voice has the power to vote, to go to rallies, to inspire others with love and not hate.
What started as an incredibly dark morning ended on a note of hope and inspiration that we all must heed: “You do not have to be somebody in a position of power to do something.” I am hopeful that we will all DO SOMETHING sooner than later, and that violence and hatred will end in our time not because we will hope for it… but because we will work for it.
Julie Bank is the Board Chair of the Jewish Center for Justice.“You do not have to be somebody in a position of power to do something.” Click To Tweet