Loving Day and Shavuot

Diaspora mapping at Jews of Color National Convening May 2016

Diaspora mapping at Jews of Color National Convening May 2016

This year, 2016, the Jewish festival holiday of Shavuot, and the celebration of Loving Day, fall on June 12. This has set me to musing. Shavuot is our celebration of the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai, and Loving Day commemorates the day in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all laws (which still remained in sixteen states) that banned interracial marriage. It is celebrated by interracial families around the globe, according to the lovingday.org website, to fight racial prejudice and to build multicultural community. This is the first year that Shavuot and Loving Day have occurred on the same day.

On Shavuot, Jews traditionally read the Book of Ruth, the story of a Moabite woman who, after her Israelite husband dies, joins her mother-in-law Naomi, and confirms her Israelite identity with the words, “whither you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” The reasons given for reading Ruth on Shavuot are that the story takes place during the seasonal harvest that the holiday marks; that Ruth’s acceptance of the Israelite faith is analogous to the Jewish people’s acceptance of Torah; and because of the legend that King David, a descendant of Ruth, died on Shavuot.

The confluence this year of these two holidays is an opportunity to think about Ruth’s words in today’s racially tense and divided world, at a time when many of our families are interracial and there is a growing recognition that Jews are a multiracial people. Traditionally, we view Ruth who, as a convert, leaves her Moabite self behind and throws in her lot with the Jewish people. Today we understand marriage and all relationships as reciprocal: Ruth and Naomi will need to lodge where each, and both together, are accepted and safe. Today we recognize and appreciate that individuals bring all of themselves into their relationships and families. We don’t ask a convert to cut themselves off from their past, or leave out any part of themselves. And corollary to this, we recognize that, as a multiracial people, all Jews are affected by racism. Which makes me think: How would our community and our lives be different if each of us would say to each individual in our community “whither you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people will be my people, and our God is one.”

Saturday June 11, 7:30pm: Shavuot–the celebration of our receiving the Torah. Judith Jacobs will host us at her house, and serve the traditional blintzes. Sign up here to attend. We’ll read a retelling of the story from “Listen to Her Voice: Women of the Hebrew Bible” and then focus on a chapter of “Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story” (Please note, this gathering is instead of our Second Saturday service that morning.)

This year’s Michigan Loving Day celebration is in Grand Rapids, hosted by Ebony Road Players.

Rena Seltzer at Book Festival Local Authors Brunch

renaAARC member Rena Seltzer will give a short presentation on her book, The Coach’s Guide for Women Professors, as part of the Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival’s local authors brunch on Sunday, November 8 at the JCC.
The brunch and conversation with the authors begins at 10am with author presentations at 10:30am. Brunch is $10 in advance for JCC members, or $15 for non-members, and $15 at the door. Advance purchase is recommended. The presentations are free and open to the public.
While you’re there, check out the Children’s Books sale, where you will be able to choose from over 120 titles chosen by AARC Beit Sefer Director Clare Kinberg.

B’shalach A New Morning Prayer

by Ellen Danninimages (4)

B’shalach A New Morning Prayer

 

Lord of the outstretched hand,

who brought our ancestors out of

confinement in Egypt,

release all those bodily confined

for the pursuit of justice.

 

Release us from the prisons

and the callouses we have constructed

around our hearts.

Release our hands from the shackles

we have placed on them,

and guide them to their avodah [worship / work].

 

Release our minds from the deceptions

in which they are imprisoned.

 

Remove exhaustion

from our eyelids and bodies.

Release our spirits from terror and fear.

 

Renew us that we may be renewed,

set us on our journey to the land

we are to enter.

 

We are and we are not our ancestors.

 

We will not turn aside.