Ari (Ballaban) Jun — In Conversation
Planting the Seeds of Outreach
On the evening of Monday, July 17, I attended the meeting of Lakota’s Board of Education. The president of the Board, Lynda O’Connor, had asked me if she could read my message to Darbi Boddy during the meeting, so I thought it important to go. From start to finish, the meeting was chaos. When the meeting turned to Boddy’s use of “blood libel,” she chose the sword rather than the plowshare: “You cannot take a word and claim it as your own,” she said. “‘Blood libel’ in this case is dealing with America, obviously, not Israel.”
I had not met Boddy in person until that night, and there had been no chance to see her before the meeting. Dispirited as I was by night’s end, I decided to approach her. After I called her name a couple times from in front of the stage, which she’d already begun to leave, she finally–begrudgingly–turned toward me and walked over.
I shook her hand and introduced myself as “Ari Jun.”
“Oh, you’re the rabbi.” She continued, “I really can’t talk.”
“I understand, and it’s nice to meet you. Like I’ve said before, I’d really love to meet in person sometime to build trust, share with each other, and learn from one another.”
“I don’t think there’s any point, we just disagree about what the words mean.”
“Still, I think it would be good for us to come together.”
And that’s when she turned her back, walked away, and left the auditorium. So, what’s the takeaway? Not all outreach pays off… at least directly or in the short term. But, indirectly, a seemingly fruitless gesture can be beneficial. For instance, by attending the meeting, I got to demonstrate to the Lakota community that we stand allied with them. And, in the long term, you never know what will come. Community relations is all about planting A LOT of seeds and hoping A FEW will grow. It’s impossible to know which seeds in this work will take root.
I still hold out hope that Boddy will find a way—if not to change her goals—to pursue them in more appropriate ways, ones which are less harmful to our communities. If she ever were to reach out, I’d jump at the chance to meet. No doubt, we could both learn things from one another. That, too, would be Torah—and learn we must!