Jackie Congedo — In Conversation
Resilience and Justice: Making Meaning in This Moment – by Shirah Kraus
We have been challenged in the last several months, both as individuals and as a community, to respond to rising tensions over racial justice, an increase in antisemitism, and to COVID-19—in addition to our own personal struggles. But as our summer fellow from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Shirah Kraus, writes below, we are called as Jews to “bounce forward, not back” during these trying times. –Jackie
By Shirah Kraus
In the wake of my mother’s death this past May, I’ve come to realize that the process of healing embodies personal transformation and finding new meaning in an uncertain world. I have experienced pain and joy, both surrounded by a cloud of surrealness. Though her death was not a surprise, I didn’t realize how strange it would feel to live without someone I had depended on since birth.
Personal, communal, and global losses can shake us. We may yearn to return to normal, but our survival depends on growing through loss and creating good from it—not denying or resisting change. We cannot turn back the clock on personal losses or collective trauma, including our challenges today with COVID-19 and racial injustice: many lives have been permanently lost and altered. But resilience means bouncing forward, not back.
We have inherited the world as it is, but we have the power to come together to build the world as it should be. We can make meaning out of our pain by cultivating creativity, relationships, and moral purpose.
For the Jewish people, making meaning out of pain is nothing new. Soon, on Tisha B’av (July 29-30), Jews around the world will mourn the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, a tragedy that occurred almost 2000 years ago. In the wake of this loss, the Jewish people cried, and they also created. They crafted the beautiful poetry of the Book of Lamentations and established an annual holiday on which to recite it, Tisha B’Av. They refashioned Judaism: the city of Yavneh became the new center of Jewish life. There, study replaced Temple sacrifice and Rabbinic Judaism flourished. The sages transformed Judaism after destruction, thus ensuring the survival of the people and tradition.
In response to the tragedies of today, we can harness our own creativity to build a better tomorrow, but we need deep relationships and moral purpose to do so.
As a JCRC fellow this summer, one source of healing has been forming meaningful connections with members of the Jewish, interfaith, and social justice communities in Cincinnati. What I’ve found to be so uplifting from these relationships is the expansion of communal boundaries and the impact of collective action. Much of my time this summer has been collaborating with other passionate people of faith to create impactful programs on racial justice through a faith lens. Working on something that transcends us all not only strengthens my Judaism but gives me the energy to help others find their way to justice as well.
Nourishing these relationships is valuable in itself, but leveraging them toward a moral purpose elevates our ability to cultivate resilience. I remember feeling this way at my first protest in high school. When Ohio Senate Bill 8 threatened to rob public employees of their ability to bargain collectively, a coalition of UC staff and faculty, police officers, firefighters, nurses, and others gathered at Fountain Square to protest. I was in the huge crowd with my dad, a UC professor who would have been directly affected by the bill. This protest and other efforts not only led to the bill’s failure, but also demonstrated that we are powerful when we come together to fight for what is right, for the people we love. In that moment, we were resilient—creative, connected, and morally-driven.
Now is the time to come together and cultivate that resilience again: to create new rituals, campaigns, and systems; to develop relationships within and between communities; and to do work that matters. Now is the time to act.
Now Is the Time:
Here are some actions you can take to build relationships and make meaning in this moment:
- Looking for books, movies, podcasts, etc. to learn more about racism and racial justice? Check out these resources and stay up-to-date with webinars and events here.
- Join EquaSion’s Festival of Faiths (Aug. 23-30) and other programming here.
- Get involved with policing reform, bail reform, or voting with the local chapter of the ACLU. Register for SW Ohio Action Teams here.
- For Young Professionals: Attend the event, “The Stories We Tell: Resilience and Tisha B’av.” Connect with other Jewish adults in a creative and relevant commemoration of the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’av. Participants will share stories, study text, and discuss the world as it should be. 7 pm, July 29. Register here.
In memory of Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran z’l (1966-2020).
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