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joyful shabbat

From left, participants in the JOC Mishpacha “We Are Family” JOCSM Shabbaton: Maetal Gerson, Avodah Jewish Service Corps Chicago, and Kol Or of JCUA; Denise Dautoff, Jewtina y Co.; Riki Robinson, Jews of Color Initiative; Ari Monts (kneeling); Mackenzie Martinez, Avodah Jewish Service Corps, San Diego; Sabrina Sojourner, co-founding director, KHAZBAR; Erica Riddick, Jews of Color Sanctuary; Deitra Reiser, founder, Transform for Equity; Kiyomi Kowalski, co-founder, Jewbian Princess; and Ramona Tenorio, Tiyuv Initiative.

I feel blessed to be connected with a national network of Jews of color (JoC) and lucky to have experienced JoC majority spaces, even if sparsely. It is joyful to feel community in a way that you know deep in your bones includes you. The JoC Mishpacha Project JoCISM Shabbaton was definitely that kind of event. It was an opportunity to deepen existing relationships and create new ones. I was struck by the harmonies we made together, both in song and the ways we blended needs and customs. It was also a beautiful expression of the crucial role allies play, as family, as friends, as organizations, as symbiotic supporters of this work to create affinity spaces that strengthen so much more than just the Jewish people of color present, but returns with them into their home communities… whether that is across the country or down the street. The weekend reminded me of the importance of the work of JoC Sanctuary and the ability to intentionally create the spaces we need for ourselves.

Rising Tide

Erica Riddick of Jews of Color Sanctuary will be a featured speaker of the Co-Creating Rituals Panel at the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network virtual 2022 Gathering on May 9 through 10. Rising Tides mission is to inspire, strengthen and support communities that embrace an open, inclusive and welcoming approach to ritual immersion as a way to mark life transitions, believing that providing for the spiritual needs of the entire spectrum of Jewish people will help create a more vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive community for everyone. The gathering is an opportunity for individuals and groups to come together to learn from and grow this movement.

Mimouna

Jews of Color Sanctuary is delighted to partner with Ish to create a cultural night you will never forget!

Join me at del-ish-us, a Celebration of Mimouna on Saturday, April 30! Mimouna is a celebration, traditionally held by North African Jews from Morocco & the Maghreb, to celebrate the end of Passover. Come see the Krohn Conservatory Butterfly Show at night, with some amazing food & wine! A joyous community gathering, we’ll break bread, eat sweets, and enjoy traditional culture, together. Please join me and get your tickets today at ishFestival.org/delishus

https://www.ishfestival.org/delishus.html

Let justice well up

12:30-2pm EST Sunday March 6, 2022

Let Justice Well Up Torah Study Series for Jewish Women of Color

Join this text study affinity space by and for Jewish women who also hold intersectional identities as people of color.  The intention is to create a space where we can welcome each other as siblings while also honoring the wealth of diversity within Jews of Color spaces.  There will be opportunities to suggest text study ideas and room to express your Torah. The series is on a sliding scale of $0-36 for seven sessions which can be attended individually or collectively. No prior text study experience is required.

We will open our study will the sacrifice of Yiftach’s Daughter, exploring the offered themes of sacrifice and ritual through our unique experiences as people of color.  We’ll use the framework of our study to lead us into creating Jewish ritual for the moments of our lives.

Session Dates: March 6 & 20, April 3 & 10, May 1, 15 & 29

Let Justice Well Up is hosted by Mayyim Hayyim and generously funded by the Miriam Fund.

Mourning the Temple

I am a self proclaimed word nerd who loves lexicon and has a dictionary in every room.  How language evolves over time and where words and expressions come from is fascinating, especially when shifting context results in differences between modern over original usage.

Commemorating the destruction of the temple, always makes me think of the phrase the body is a temple.  I never knew the phrase’s origin, but like the spiritual imagery that aligns with my ideologies of feeding body and soul and getting out what you put in.  While a quick search attributes the phrasing to Christian liturgy, Judaism also expresses honoring the body in many ways.  Notably, in expressing daily gratitude for the functions of our body and allowing breaking halacha in order to preserve life.  So, during Tisha B’Av, my mourning extends to the destruction of black bodies, which feels like a paradox of prayers like Elohai Neshama and the poetry of Psalm 139.

Yet, there is a lot of beauty in the modern Judaism born from the ashes of the temple, decentralized into each of our families and transferring the holy of holies into our hearts, like a turtle, who is never without it’s home.  Turtles are evoked whenever I see a child hide under their mother’s skirts or inside their own blanket.  I hold this ability to go into my own turtle house when and where, ever I need to.  I want to acknowledge and love the broken parts of myself, whether physical, mental, spiritual or a combination of all three.  To somehow transition from destruction as damage, different from deconstruction.  Re-turning shards in-to a mosaic of beauty.

The idea of mourning AND celebrating is familiar in how funerals can be joyful in their reunion among the living as we mourn the dead.  On this Tisha B’Av, after the fires ignited from the destruction of black bodies across the United States of America, the mingling of mourning and joy is poignant.  Jews dream of rebuilding the temple, but what if each of us were the stones, simultaneously unique yet interdependent with every other stone, in different but important ways?  What if the temple we rebuilt was the world?

I know this may come across as terribly naïve, ignorant of history and completely impossible… but what if it’s not?  What if it’s as easy as a decision?  Maybe the hard part is choosing to do it every day.  As prayer can feel like a chore that detracts from more important things for some and for others is habit from repetition, the work of building the temple is not done when construction is complete.  Building maintenance is a lifelong necessity, that, by habit, can be normal, easy and regular, but if ignored and resisted, one day becomes a crisis, potentially a critical collapse.

Architecture feels an apt language for considering the relevance today of the destruction of 2 temples yesterday, but Torah wants us to explore whatever analogy resonates within, that honors our uniqueness and interdependence.  Find your voice and your light and share it with the world.  Today, we mourn not only the destruction of the temple, but say goodbye to civil justice icon John Lewis, who could have understandably focused on living out his life, but chose to offer one last bit of Torah through the words of Martin Luther King Jr, that “we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice” and in John’s own words, that “ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America” and “answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions”.

The phrase “I can’t breathe” has come to mean more than it’s words, perhaps because Elohai Neshama reminds us that our soul and breath are united.  May we redeem the soul of America through the breath of our unique voice, flowing from the temple of humanity to God and back again, breathing as one.

Shehechiyanu.

Life Cancelled Until April 30, Maybe Longer.

I spent the first few weeks of my COVID-19 mass layoff trying to file for unemployment, reset my PIN, reach a human without the call disconnecting me, write letters to Directors, Governors & Senators to clarify confusing unemployment language around eligibility after missing the noted filing deadline, while cleaning up, researching and installing a new water heater because, what’s one more crisis. I’m glad people are finding creative ways to create community in these quarantined days of coronavirus 2020. I’ve needed the phone calls and texts offering empathetic ears.

I’m in between poor and rich. I live simply and frugally. Monthly internet is not in my budget. The little I used it, before, was in my office after work. Being sent home after the mass layoff, effectively disconnected me, although I’m grateful to have a key and can still use internet occasionally, unlike those who relied on libraries, now closed.

I explored getting basic internet in the hope my old computer would allow video conference connection, and learned “affordable” = $50 per month and may not include wifi, which would allow Zoom by phone without breaking data caps. $100 a month is not unusual.

These expenses add up. For families, the cost per person may not seem bad, but for an individual, it feels prohibitive. Even now, when I really want to Zoom. Does this qualify as a need? Humans struggle to ask for help, and it’s difficult when you know people are much much worse off. Some are dying. But, does that mean I shouldn’t want more?

In the growing conversations around wealth distribution, I wonder how the idiosyncrasies between income and wealth affect how decisions like internet affordability, affect disproportionately. Who can continue to work. Go to school. Register for unemployment. Get information. Have companionship that includes body language and tone of voice that make up the bulk and nuance of communication in the absence of in person gatherings.

Many are saying things will never be the same. In some ways, I hope they won’t be. I want the exposed issues with assistance we thought was there for people who need it and work environments with lipservice of not going to work sick but knowing you better show up no matter what, become conversations we have. If we relish the idea of greater electronic connection, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but will we choose to find ways to build infrastructure that doesn’t leave people out and also doesn’t force people to forfeit their freedoms to opt in.

The joke this year is that Elijah won’t be coming to uphold social distancing. However, Elijah will be the only person at my seder. I just hope I don’t have to wait all night for their arrival. I love the concept of inviting Elijah, despite the conflict of opening the door at the end of the meal. I’ve taken to inviting Elijah to every gathering. What does it truly take to invite the stranger into one’s home? We think of strangers as people far from us, but sometimes it seems like strangers can be close, maybe even people we think we already know.

Tonight, conversation around moving from slavery to freedom, or the illusion of the abolition of slavery, is definitely going to be different this year. While my seder will ask the questions to myself, I pray, when we can leave our homes, maybe even before, we can have these conversations in ways that don’t pit ism’s against each other, includes us all and where creating an equitable world feels worth it and not like losing. And I pray, we don’t become permanently afraid to touch one another. I am going to need a good long strong hug when this is over.

Chag samech.

Personalizing Ritual

When I was a child, I was always creating. Somewhere, on the way to adulthood, despite going into a creative profession, I left the devising ritual and imbuing meaning to other professionals. While I was taught to think and to question, that was only supposed to go so far before turning to an expert. It sounds strange to say, but I now realize I am the expert of myself and my life and in choosing what moments I want to create ritual and highlight meaning around.

Reading Inventing Jewish Ritual by Vanessa L. Ochs came at the perfect time and helped hone the ritual innovator inside me to more confidently claim ownership over my prayers and new rituals in a subtly different, but deeply profound way. Prayer had always felt meaningful and personal to me, but Ochs’ historical foundation framing of Jewish ritual development created space for me to bring a fuller authentic self to current rituals and helped me to bravely create rituals rooted in Jewish practice for important life moments I want to mark or honor.

I feel there are many lost opportunities to help Jews of Color see themselves through the people of Color in the Torah. One of the foundational reasons I created this forum is to offer a safe space, a sanctuary, for Jews of Color in the Cincinnati and surrounding areas to explore those topics among other Jews of Color craving similar opportunities for chevruta, study and exploration. Our March event topic was Celebrating JOC Ritual and beyond texts pulled from Creating Jewish Ritual, we used one of my favorite texts borrowed from a friend’s article titled Bagels, Lox, and Grits: Defining My Jewish Identity by Yolanda Savage-Narva.

One of the food elements I connect with Rosh Hashanah is black eyed peas, after reading this was a popular African dish to celebrate the Gregorian New Year. This afternoon, I was part of a program that happened in an art studio. I learned a new kiln was being fired for the first time. As as artist who has mourned the loss of pieces which didn’t make it through firing, I immediately offered a simple prayer for a vessel which will bring beauty into the world. Daily minyans and Shabbat are crucial for me, but acknowledging the relevance of art is important to me too. Bringing aspects of myself in that I sometimes feel are pushed aside helps me step into a fullness of myself and my power that is exactly what I believe God wants for me. In the end, the ritual nuances that bring me the most joy are often simple elements. How they find their place is not always easy, but it always feels worth it.

https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2018/07/23/bagels-lox-and-grits-defining-my-jewish-identity

CELEBRATING & CREATING JOC RITUAL – FEBRUARY 22, 2020

7pm – An opportunity to be in Jew of Color centered space and share ways we bring our full and authentic selves to our Jewish rituals.  Feel more confident to explore and innovate nuances to your own existing Jewish rituals, or create new ones as life demands.

7:30pm – Allies of Jews of Color join us to continue the conversation and discuss ways of opening ritual practice to be more broadly inclusive of diverse Jewish identities.

rsvp danserica@gmail.com for location