Witness from Charlottesville
Reposted with thanks to Malkah Binah’s Blog, Thriving Spirit.
I spent this past Shabbat in Charlottesville with a small group of rabbis as part of a delegation from T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. The rabbis and other spiritual leaders who went to Charlottesville fulfilled many roles, some on the front lines of the protests, some as witnesses, and some as protectors and nurturers. There is much for us to learn from being present.
I felt called to play a support role. One aspect was to be present with the local Jewish community. The synagogue is very close to the park where much of the action was happening, and we could see small groups of neo-nazis walking by after our morning service on Saturday. After services, congregants arranged for the Torahs to be stored safely outside the synagogue before locking up the building. A member of the congregation said, “a building can be rebuilt. The Torahs are irreplaceable.” Among the treasured Torahs put away for safekeeping was one rescued during the Holocaust.
After services, my local host and I were attempting to walk over to a café where many of the visiting clergy were gathered; however, the timing was such that we could not cross the street and rather witnessed a parade of various groups of white supremacists, primarily younger men, marching down the street after their rally had been declared unlawful. I saw medics leading journalists who had been pepper-sprayed to the medic tent that had been set up as a safe space at a church. I saw groups of counter-protestors marching down the perpendicular street to face the white supremacists, and I even saw an older white woman in a tie-dyed shirt with the word “love” printed on it, standing right in the middle of the street they were marching through. I left the area when mace was set off in the midst of the protesters, I’m not sure by whom.
Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein (also known as Melissa Klein) lives in Philadelphia with her wife, Neysa Nevins, and their son Tani. She serves as a spiritual guide and community leader. She is the co-chair of the Philadelphia Chapter of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL), an organization devoted to addressing climate change as a moral issue. Malkah Binah teaches the art of creating transformative ritual and is the author of “Jewish Ritual Across the Life Cycle” in A Guide to Jewish Practice, Volume III (Teutsch, 2014). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.