November 30, 2022
Tikkun Olam. Repairing the World. This is an imperative for the Jewish people.
Aleinu. It is upon us to partner with the Divine, and with each other, to complete the holy task of perfecting the world–to transform the world that is, into the world that ought to be.
The world that ought to be does not include hatred and bigotry. The world that must be, does not include antisemitism, or any other “ism” that harms and destroys.
When we encounter such adversity, especially when the hits come in rapid succession, one after another, our tradition teaches that we must not despair. After the Holocaust, Jewish philsopher and Rabbi Emil Fackenheim created what’s known as the 614th commandment, which states we are not to give Hitler a posthumus victory by ceasing to exist. We must not only survive, but thrive as Jews. Essentially, we are commanded not to despair, even in the darkest times.
Part of how we thrive is to courageously face the darkness in this world and vow to counteract that darkness with light, with mitzvot (acts of lovingkindness). The teenagers in our Teen Tikkun program recently did exactly that.
As many of you are aware, the person who set fire to and vandalized our CBI sign with antisemitic symbols also defaced the mural at W. 2nd and Cedar Streets with similar hate symbols and vile words. The mural was originally painted to raise awareness about missing and murdered women in the Indigenous community (MMIW).
I have spoken of the need for all targeted and marginalized communities to stand in solidarity together, as we are stronger together. In that spirit, I reached out to the muralist, Shane Grammar and let him know if he needed any help restoring his mural, he could count on the Jewish community to be there. He replied immediately and welcomed a few helping hands. As we spoke, I learned that he believes it is important to engage with youth. He works with children and teenagers, teaching them practical skills along with inspiring hope through artistic expression.
Our teenagers were very motivated to help restore the mural. They all agreed that this act of Tikkun Olam was important enough to take off the morning from school. We met Shane Grammer on November 17th, and got to work. As a team, Aliyah Dinits, Zia Miller, Sophie Rambach, and Lucy Rappaport cleaned the fire damage, repainted the defaced areas, and applied two coats of anti graffiti protectant.
We prepared mentally and emotionally, ahead of time, by having an honest and thought provoking conversation about antisemitism, human trafficking in the Indigenous community, racism, and hate crimes. We also spoke about our obligation as Jews to stand up against violence and hatred, to seek justice, and to repair the world locally and globally. Our teenagers engaged in this conversation with mature presence and impressive awareness.
While there is darkness in the world, and we have seen it on our own corner at 14th and Hemlock, there is infinitely more light. Our teenagers bring their own light and love. With it, they have inspired hope.
Here’s more about the mural restoration: