By Coalition CEO Jen Gurecki, originally published in Redefining Radical
Certainly not sit around and be silent...
I have stared at a blank page for days, not knowing what to write, feeling as if my words are too small, too late, too inconsequential. I’m sure many of you feel the same way, stricken with grief over the atrocities we are witnessing, exhausted by the feeling of helplessness.
What I want to share with you isn’t a history lesson or an explanation of current affairs or a demand for action. It’s my story of being the great-granddaughter of Jewish immigrants who had the freedom to leave a life behind.
My family left Eastern Europe—Poland, Austria, Hungary, and what is now known as Ukraine—before WWI. My ancestors gave my life possibility when they immigrated to the US through Ellis Island and settled in New York. They escaped the persecution of Jews by Hitler before they had to flee (although our people were persecuted long before Hitler and will continue to be long after). Had they not had the opportunity to leave, there’s a very good chance I would not be here today.
I’ve often thought about how my life has been shaped because of my great-grandparent’s decision to leave their home. The courage it must have taken to step foot on that boat and say goodbye to everything you knew for the promise of something better. That risk paid off. I have the freedom to move, speak, and exist in ways that others don’t simply because of where we were born. I wish I could have thanked them for all of the opportunities they provided to me and for having the foresight to leave Europe before the Holocaust.
I have thought about this even more over the past week, and in particular, since Friday when Israel gave people living in Gaza 24 hours to leave the northern part of the enclave. There are mothers and fathers who want to give their children, grandchildren, and future generations a better life, yet it is impossible. They will be lucky to even live through this.
I grieve for them. I grieve for the innocent Israelis who were murdered by Hamas. I grieve knowing that we don’t value human life and that we believe some people have greater worth than others. I grieve that we continue to go to extreme lengths to prove one group’s superiority over another.
We have not learned.
It’s well documented that the average German knew about the Holocaust. Americans knew; just ask IBM. Most of them carried on with their lives, allowing that atrocity to scar humanity forever. We look back on the Holocaust and cannot wrap our minds around how people allowed that to happen to millions of human beings. But they did.
Do we know how to be better?
And here we are again. Another genocide unfolding in front of our eyes. There is no denying that what is happening in Gaza is a catastrophic violation of human rights. It is wrong. It is foolish to call an unfair fight a war, to try to give credibility to the shamefulness unfolding in front of us.
We know what is happening, and the question is: Will we step into our collective humanity and do something about it?
“The only liberation will be a shared liberation. The only justice is a justice for all.” ~ Rabbi Sharon Brous
Now is not the time to turn away from hard things. We only make it hard because we think we must pick sides. There has to be a winner and a loser, a right and a wrong, a good and a bad. This false binary pits us against one another. It’s a tool that is used to keep us divided. It keeps us silent. It steers us away from humanity.
If my Grandma Alice were still alive, you would not find her advocating for the displacement, oppression, and ultimate death of people living in Gaza. You’d find her at her kitchen table, in her moo moo with her perfectly orange-red lipstick staining her coffee mug. And I’d be there next to her as we plotted our next moves for peace, liberation, and justice together.
Things I would share with my Grandma Alice because she probably would refuse to fuck around with Instagram (and who could blame her):
This post by Deepa Iyer about how the social change framework can help us clarify our values and roles: “For those of us committed to social change, holding values of love, peace and empathy means that we recognize that ‘where life is precious, life is precious,’ to quote Ruth Wilson Gilmore. It means that we move beyond the surface to understand root causes of violence, so that we can usher in systemic and structural change.”
The poetry of Amanda Gorman, always reminding us of a better world.
A simple list of to-do’s + groups to follow, learn from, and amplify from Andréa Ranae.
Saira Rao’s unwavering commitment to anti-racism around the world, and this post in particular in which she shares Rabbi Sharon Brou’s call for peace.
I’m going to move forward today and tomorrow and hopefully everyday holding that last line as sacrament: Let us hold each other with love and grace.