“I want us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
April Baskin’s hope for our movement (expressed near the end of Wednesday’s breakout workshop on Racial Justice) is a personal goal as well, and this year’s convention has afforded me ample opportunity to have my comfort challenged in all the right ways. In the short span of a few hours on the conference’s final day, I was pushed with respect to Israel/Palestine, Race, and Gender and Sexuality, and I am grateful for each uncomfortable moment.
The first push came during our Israel-focused morning. Hanan Schlesinger and Ali Abu Awad shared their truths with us, letting their stories and their friendship testify to the power of growth that comes from discomfort. In their words, and in the program that followed, I more clearly saw my own truths for what they are: partial, the “amot shevurot” of which David Stern spoke on Monday. I found myself wondering whether his important reminder that “a uni-vocal Zionism is a failed Zionism” might be extended even further. How am I, a Progressive Zionist, called to be in relationship not only with fellow Zionists of all stripes, but also with those people (of all faiths) who do not embrace Zionism for any of a number of reasons?
My afternoon was spent thinking about Racial Justice with April Baskin and Rachel Laser, and about LGBT Justice with Rebecca Stapel-Wax of SOJOURN. In each session, practical advice was joined with exercises that forced me to confront my own biases and privilege. What do I like about being white? What are my earliest memories about the notion of “gay?” What feelings do I associate with my first remembered experience of encountering a transgender person? These aren’t easy questions to ponder, and they are even harder to reflect upon aloud. Kudos to April, Rachel, and Rebecca for creating the spaces in which this important work could happen. Their work will help us to become more sensitive, inclusive, and just rabbis.
From my seat by the gate as I wait to fly home on Thursday (a different, and most unwelcome, sort of discomfort!), I feel tremendous gratitude to everyone whose hard work and dedication made #ccar17 so rewarding…and so uncomfortable, in all the right ways.
Rabbi Larry Bach serves Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, North Carolina.