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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sunny Day

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

At Least in My Head, Anyway

It has been rainy outside for much of today, and it's dark now. A noticeable number of my Facebook friends designated their status as "sleepy" or "reading" or "relaxing."

What's sunny, for me, is coming out of my funk about the recent initiatives that didn't go my people's way. Two leaders helped me shift my attitude: Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Tracy Baim.

Last night, during Shabbat services, Rabbi Kleinbaum reminded us that the White House, where President Elect Obama and his family will soon live, was built by slaves from Africa. She called it a miracle -- the history of our country's progress.

And she said that if anyone felt upset at how various religious communities voted on the ballots we cared about, then we should stop and consider that certainly, as recently as 30 years ago, the [whole] Jewish community would have voted the same way.

Rabbi Kleinbaum said that it's a shame how religious people are being demonized -- my word, not hers -- when there's a whole bunch of progressive, religious communities out there. My dear friend Marni just introduced me to another voice among them today: a blog by a rabbinical student, "The Velveteen Rabbi: When can I run and play with the real rabbis?"

And Tracy Baim, who is among the best journalists and GLBT community voices I'm honored to know, wrote a great reality-check, too. What was our part in the failure? Why weren't we a more racially inclusive community all these years? Writing this feels potentially inflammatory of my comrades in the GLBT community, but I'll speak for myself when I observe that the GLBT Community has all too often, historically, looked like the G Community in terms of visibility, and especially the gay, white male community.

Pat just taught me the word in American Sign Language for "Jew," which she learned at her ASL class the other night: It's a matter of taking a fist and dragging it down from one's chin, i.e., to suggest a beard; I am Jewish and cannot grow a beard...at least not yet! My parallel is that all too often, when people think of Jews, they think of men. Jews are also female.

Women, historically, worldwide, have been less visible and less audible than men. There needs to be no bitterness on my part about the lack of visibility, but rather just a commitment to help change it. Likewise, personally, I've benefited from white privilege and I need to be even more conscious of trying to include people of color in my communities.

Rabbi Kleinbaum's point was huge last night: Congregations like ours, with progressive leaders, have had a hand in helping a number of the Jewish community shift our thinking to be more inclusive over the past 30 years. That's not what she said explicitly, but that's what I understand as I reflect here now.

And that message makes me feel so sunny because it empowers me. Tracy Baim's message empowers me likewise; From her points, I infer: Don't blame others for not getting what you want. Rather, be more inclusive of others and then they'll be more inclusive of you over time.

Maybe we'll see New York and New Jersey enable same-gender couples to marry relatively soon as the result of behaving as Rabbi Kleinbaum and Tracy Baim encourage.

2 comments:

Tracy Baim said...

Thanks Sarah very much for your kind words and confidence.

Sarah Siegel said...

Writing about you reminds me of another reason to feel sunny: Chicago, where Pat and I loved livig and which we miss, will be the new Crawford, Texas for at least the next four years, and so Chicago's voice and visibility will grow still larger and so will the individuals and their voices within it.

Maybe Chicago will produce the next Harvey Milk for our movement -- if we could, say, mix you with Mary Morten and Tom Tunney and Bruce Koff and Rick Garcia (at least, you guys were among the GLBT community leaders I most admired when I lived there), it would be marvelous!