Now that the shock of the election has passed, we are in a state of limbo watching, wondering, worrying what President-elect Trump and his administration will be like. In the congregation emotions are running high; more than anything, people are afraid and their fears mirror where they feel vulnerable. A mom calls frightened for her daughter at college where sexual assault is already a serious problem; will Trump, a man that was caught on camera boasting about sexual assault yet still was elected, embolden predators already on campus? An adult child of a Holocaust Survivor pokes her head in my study visibly shaken. She asks if I think she should immigrate to Israel and if it is true that white supremacists were celebrating Trump’s victory shouting, “Heil Trump” and waving Nazi flags? Others express concerns less personal but just as real: “What will we do if they start rounding up immigrant families for deportation or make Muslim families register with the government?”
While I don’t have definitive answers to these and many other concerns folks have expressed, there are some things I think are important to understand about who we are as a community and what we stand for as a congregation. The Jewish moral imperative to care for and be concerned for the most vulnerable in society has always been at the center of our mission. Some thirty years ago, my predecessor, Rabbi Michael Robinson (may his memory be for a blessing), was sleeping in his car to protest the new city ordinance that made it illegal for homeless people to sleep in their cars. Shortly after I arrived almost 21 years ago, we began fighting for immigrant rights; marching in rallies, hosting lectures and political forums. And from the founding of the congregation up until today we have been committed to LGBTQ equality and inclusion in the congregation and in society at large. In fact, more than once we were the largest group of any kind to march in the LGBTQ Pride parades that used to be held in Santa Rosa. Those are just a few of the many examples of our ongoing work on behalf of the most vulnerable here in Sonoma County. Given our values and our history (and the fact that the Social Action Committee is the largest and most active in the congregation), you can expect us to stay active and engaged as we move forward into these uncharted waters.
It is important to remember that we are not alone. Just last week I brought together over a dozen clergy (Methodists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Science of Mind, etc.) from around the county for an early morning breakfast and discussion about how we could work together going forward. Two things came out of the meeting: A commitment to prepare for action by organizing through the auspices of the North Bay Organizing Project; and an interfaith Unity Service open to the whole community to be held at the Center for Spiritual Living (our synagogue can’t accommodate the large crowd we hope to attract) on Saturday, January 21, at 3 PM—the day after the inauguration.
Both of these events demonstrate two critical ideas: First, that there is comfort in community; and second, there is strength in numbers. I really believe that by joining together in our own community and with like-minded communities across the country, we can protect the vulnerable and advance our progressive ideals and fundamental values of fairness, equality and justice for all.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that, “The whole world is a narrow bridge; the essence is not to be afraid.” Yes, there is much to find frightening in the hurtful rhetoric and erratic behavior of this new administration, but let our fear not paralyze but embolden us. Let us join hands and cross that narrow bridge in solidarity, confident that the arc of history is long and that it does indeed bend toward justice.