By Rabbi Joel Simonds

Yesterday a mix of board members and lay leaders gathered both in the JCJ offices and online to engage with elected officials on our advocacy agenda for the upcoming year.  Emphasizing our pursuit for a brighter tomorrow, we spoke with State Senators Ben Allen and Scott Wiener, Executive Director of San Francisco Housing Action Coalition Todd David, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and our very own LAUSD VP Nick Melvoin. 

During these meetings, we addressed the legislation we will support in the areas of economic justice, environmental justice, reproductive choice, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, immigration and combating the rise of anti-Semitism. We also discussed strategies for future bills and our own recommendations for strengthening the voting system for November. Each and every official expressed their need for JCJ’s voice in this fight for justice, and thanked us for making the safe, yet difficult, decision to postpone our travel to Sacramento and reimagine our advocacy day.

Of course, it was challenging to free our thoughts from the dangers of COVID-19 and its impact on society’s most vulnerable as well as on our own family and community.  As we learned of new school closures, event cancellations, and updated numbers of this pandemic between each meeting, it was clear this has impacted everyone, both personally and professionally.

Engaging with everyone, I was reminded of the poem by my favorite Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, “A Man In His Life.” (Please excuse the gender specific language.)

A man doesn’t have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn’t have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
Was wrong about that.

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.

We have entered a time of uncertainty and fear, during which we will all have our moments of deep pain. But as a community we will strengthen one another, we will gather stones together, and we will build again that which might crumble. For the time that we are entering, Amichai’s words will live within us as we laugh and cry with the same eyes. 

Thank you for keeping the flame of justice burning while we turn inward and tend to our own families and lives.  We know that as justice leaders we have a unique responsibility to remind our community of the vulnerable among us; those who cannot shop for next week’s food, who cannot afford to feed their children at home, who cannot self-isolate if they feel sick, and who cannot venture to the store because of age or underlying condition. We will do all we can to grow our capacity and protect the vulnerable in our society.

Rabbi Joel Simonds it the Executive Director of the Jewish Center for Justice.