Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at the largest gathering of American Muslims in the US at the 15th Annual MAS-ICNA conference. As part of the interfaith symposium, I brought the message from JVP loud and clear to the gathering of over 15,000 Muslims: we are with you.
Measuring by applause, the most resonant parts of my remarks might not surprise you, but are important for us to hold onto as we turn toward 2017:
The first was letting them know that we are committed to always being visible fighting Islamophobia, unflinching in our commitment to fighting bigotry, discrimination and state violence, and devoted to building interfaith community in this new political era as part of our Network Against Islamophobia. I talked about the 25 JVP chapters that organized Chanukah actions against Islamophobia, and how that’s just the baseline for how broadly we need to organize.
Second, was recalling our commitment to take on the community’s complicity in fomenting anti-muslim bigotry – and that we’ve been doing so not just since the election, but for the better part of a decade as we organize against Islamophobia and racism in our own community, in deep partnership with Muslim organizations leading the fight with strength and integrity.
And finally was when I said: When and if other Jewish organizations refuse to work with you or set terms for partnership that insist on silence about Palestinian rights, JVP is here and is honored to be your partner.
Our consistent visibility as allies, our commitment to doing the work to combat Islamophobia in our communities, and standing staunchly together toward justice for Palestine is what JVP uniquely brings to interfaith partnership — and what resonated most deeply in my remarks yesterday.
That’s not too surprising considering no other Jewish organization is fighting Islamophobia with the kind of long-standing commitment, values and political depth that we are. Or that we were the only Jewish organization to show up at this conference at a time when the Muslim community needs interfaith partners more than ever.
Many I spoke to today are rightfully in fear of what the next four years are going to bring. Trump’s appointment of well known racists, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, and other bigots is truly terrifying.
Again and again throughout the day we heard how critical it is for the Muslim community–emotionally and politically–to have allies who are visible in this time.
Yet, even as the prospects of a Trump presidency are truly grim–this season reminds us that the light increases.
Our rabbinic sages recounted this story about Chanukah in the Talmud:
When Adam, the first person, saw the days shortening, he said:
“Woe to me! Perhaps it is on account of my sin that the world is becoming dark and it is returning to a state of void and chaos! This must be the death penalty that heaven decreed upon me.”
He sat for eight days of fasting and prayer.
When he saw, after the solstice, that the days were lengthening, he said:
“This must be the way of the world.”
He went and celebrated eight days of festival.
The next year, he established eight days of festival for all.
So it is the way of the world that the light shall increase. We are all that light. By faith communities standing together with a goal of true collective liberation, we remind ourselves that justice, light, and safety are the way of the world.
May it be so.
Rabbi Alissa Wise
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