I spent the first night of Chanukah this year at Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA. This was the Boston-area location for the multi-city #ChanukahAction: A Jewish Day of Action to End Police Violence event. I had a number of anxieties in advance, but it proved to be a powerful evening with moments of hope and inspiration.
My concerns began with a Facebook event wall littered with infighting that I feared would travel offline to the actual event. Could we focus on one issue, and keep the focus away from ourselves? Could we raise awareness in our own community without silencing and ignoring those who have already been marginalized? I had been to a protest organized by Black Lives Matter Boston in November, organized and led by people of color. I recognized why Jews needed to rally around the cause, but it was unclear how. Frankly, could we do this without damaging the larger movement?
I walked over after work and arrived to find a group of people a few blocks south of Coolidge Corner. Many already had signs similar to the graphic from the Facebook event stating “Do not stand idly by your brother’s blood” (in short, the oversimplified “why” mentioned above), and “Black Lives Matter, #ChanukahAction.” The organizers brilliantly asked participants not to bring their own signs, and if they did, to simply state, “White Jews and Jews of Color stand together for Ferguson Action.” This, if nothing else, kept people from bringing inappropriate, off-topic, or offensive signage (e.g. white folks with signs saying “I could be next”).