Walking in the World Together

I always take note when one of my weekly posts seems to have struck a chord and last week’s blog, about fatigue and resilience, clearly did for many of you. This week, I’d like to tell you a story about our community’s support of the Ukrainian people, one that I’m holding closely going into Shabbat; since for me, it speaks to the very heart of what I shared last week. 

You may recall that a few weeks back I wrote about showing up for our partners, and specifically about answering a call from a pastor with whom I have a deep relationship. I wrote then that weaving connections among communities fosters a sense of obligation that inspires us to unite and support each other. At that time, I didn’t mention the name of the pastor who had reached out on a Saturday night asking me and us to stand with him and his fellow clergy in support of (then D.A.) Rachael Rollins. 

Now I will share that this Saturday night call came from Rev. Ray Hammond, co-pastor of Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain.

I mention it again because, this Wednesday, we were together in community at a Greater Boston Interfaith Organization Clergy caucus and Pastor Hammond pulled me aside to ask how I and we were doing as a community with all that was happening in Ukraine. He informed me that his church had been following the events there with great pain for all the people suffering. He noted how, quite often over the years, he had heard JCRC leaders, going back to my predecessor Nancy Kaufman, talking about the latest trips to Dnipro and the excitement we had for the revitalization of that community. Pastor Hammond informed me that his church had decided that they wanted to do something meaningful to support the relief efforts, and, knowing that our Jewish community in Boston was so deeply attached to our sister community, the congregation would be making a $2,500 donation to CJP’s Ukraine Emergency Fund.  

Upon my return to my office there was a letter from Rev. Hammond’s wife and co-pastor, Rev. Gloria Hammond, addressed to myself and Rabbi Elaine Zecher of Temple Israel. With permission, I quote to you in part:

We have partnered with you in social justice work for three decades and, like you, we are appalled by the naked aggression and oppression being visited upon the people of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin. We welcome any opportunity to resist that kind of violence and imperialism. And we welcome the opportunity to remember that when our congregation (as part of a national movement) was calling attention to naked aggression and oppression in South Sudan two decades ago, JCRC and CJP partnered with us. You came to our rallies, supported our fundraisers, and joined in our advocacy efforts. You supported that work organizationally and through the efforts of many member organizations, especially our sister congregation Temple Israel.  

Thank you for giving us a vehicle to not only express our outrage, but offer relief to the victims of senseless war. And thank you for a 30-year partnership in the pursuit of justice, locally and globally. God bless you. 

I cannot imagine a more welcome reminder this week of the power of partnerships built over time. It speaks to the essence of what community relations is all about: that when we build deep relationships and strong bridges between leaders and communities - often over years and through many challenges - we can forge bonds of obligation that invite and inspire each of us to do more than we can do alone; to stand up for each other, to support each other, and to walk in the world together.

I closed my note last week saying that finding resiliency in challenging times comes through an awareness of how we choose to respond to events around us. I wrote: 

“We don’t always get to choose the challenges we face. We do get to choose how we face them. I, and we, choose to face them together.” 

I am so grateful to Pastors Ray and Gloria, and all the members of Bethel AME, for reminding me and us this week that we are in fact together in this world and this work. Their kindness and generosity remind us once again of how experiencing the partnership of friends can be an act of building resilience. And, in doing so, they demonstrate how all of us can “walk the walk” of living out our obligations to our neighbors as well.  

With gratitude and Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy