Toni Morrison said in a commencement speech at Barnard that The Function of Freedom is to free somebody else.
My parents fled their country during the Iranian revolution, escaping second class citizenship and state sanctioned antisemitism. They found freedom when they landed in the San Fernando valley where they raised, my siblings and I. Went to public LAUSD schools and ended up In our nation’s greatest public college, UCLA. I’ve spent my years since in this city
Los Angeles has afforded this freedom to many families, and today we’re gathering outside of the mayor’s home because of our obligation–– because the inherent function of freedom is to free somebody else
AND OUR OWN personal journey of freedom is not complete until we have seen true freedom for all. Freedom for our Black and POC Angelenos from the daily threat of police violence, freedom from a justice system which is not just and free from a city budget that only serves some.
We are gathering together on tisha b’av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, marking the day that both temples were destroyed. We commemorate the loss by fasting and depriving ourselves of other joys. While other protests have brought us together with a greater sense of joy as we feel the people power today we are somber because we grieve.
We grieve the loss of temples and life that this day represents. So too, do we use this day to mourn and grieve the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the 610 Angelenos who have been killed by the police since Jackie Lacey cane into offive. 610 of our fellow angelenos who once stood and enjoyed palm trees just like these. And we ask the Mayor to rescind his endorsement of Jackie Lacey as many other conscionable politicians and Jewish leaders have. One of Los Angeles legendary rabbi’s Leonard Beerman said “ We need those who have the courage to be ashamed.”
Los Angles is it’s Jewish community and the Jewish community is Los Angeles. As we demand change from our mayor, and leaders and systems, so too must we demand that change from our synagogues, Federation, JCCs and beyond.
Two of my best friends are Lindsey Newman and Aaron Samuels, they are leaders In the Jewish community and strong Black and Jewish voices in LA and Nationally. Together, lsat month we coauthored an open letter to the Jewish community called Not Free to Desist where we laid out seven obligations that would lay the foundation of a reimagined Jewish community that is anti-racist, inclusive and equitable. Our letter which was signed by thousands in our community and you can read and sign at notfreetodesist.org. The first obligation begins with recognizing that the statement black lives matter is inherently true and should be accepted without caveat or qualification. We then ask fro racial justice and equity to become explicit Pilars of your organization. We also ask for a commitment to replacing contracts with police departments with alternative structures of community safety that prioritize inclusive anti-racist security practices. The police are not a sign of safety for all Jews.
After Rabbi Beerman said we need those who have the courage to be ashamed, he said we need those who have the muscle to care. And more than caring, we need those who will preserve and cultivate an enduring vision of the good, who will maintain a vision of the future as a permanent possibility in the present.”
Together are building that vision and in a time of tumult and uncertainty, this vision of a liberated community and city we are holding as a permanent possibility in the present.