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A Jewish Call to Feed & to March

Ari Hart is Rabbi at Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, a Modern Orthodox congregation with a firm commitment to Halacha, a spirit of inclusion and ahavat achim, and a strong belief in the intellectual discussion of Torah and Jewish texts.

Editor’s note: We invite you to watch Rev. James T. Meeks (Salem Baptist Church) in conversation with Pastor Chris Harris (Bright Star Church Chicago), Rabbi Michael Siegel (Anshe Emet Synagogue) and Rabbi Ari Hart (Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue), all participants in the march Rabbi Hart writes about below. Their conversation touches on faith, race, policing and more. Pastor Chris Harris has galvanized a coalition of 500 religious leaders and community organizations, with estimates of 10,000 marchers in a Faith Community Led Peaceful Demonstration June 19 at 12PM in downtown Chicago. The demonstration, which honors Juneteenth and #BlackLivesMatter will be starting at Roosevelt & Columbus and then march into Grant Park.

“The world shall be built with lovingkindness - Olam Chesed Yibaneh” - Psalm 89

Yesterday, the power of lovingkindness, and the power of Pastor Chris Harris, Sr.Bright Star Community Outreach, Inc. (BSCO) and over 250 amazing volunteers, built a world.

It was a world where people of so many diverse backgrounds came together to support families facing a food crisis; a world of solidarity with the black community and black lives; a world that was a glimpse of olam haba, the world to come.

I was so grateful that Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob was able to be a part of this work and I was BLOWN AWAY by leadership from our community. As soon as we heard about the problem of tens of thousands of South Side residents not having access to food, so many people jumped into action - organizing, strategizing, purchasing, packing, schlepping TWO TRUCK FULLS of perishable food items directly to families in need.

It's amazing what happens when talented people with huge hearts unleash their energy onto something like this and I just feel so grateful to serve this amazing community.

We were under no illusion that this will fix the deep underlying problems of racism, poverty and violence. But it did fix the problem of several hundred families not having food for the next week. It built deeper connections between our communities. It also led to critical questions and conversations.

Why did people loot grocery stores? Why were there so few grocery stores to begin with in black neighborhoods? Why are there black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods in Chicago? Why did Jews who pass as white use to live in neighborhoods that are now black? Why did we leave? What happened when we did? What relationship should we have to those neighborhoods now? What about our own neighborhood here in Skokie? Is there racism here? What does it look like? What can we do about it?

These are complex, uncomfortable questions that begin from a place of chessed - lovingkindness and then expand to questions about tzedek - justice.

I’m reminded of what MLK said: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

I'm a rabbi, not a policy expert. I don't know the best paths forward to make sure that all Americans of any color get to go to bed each night fed, safe, protected, and cared for. But I know that the ONLY way to start is with chessed - lovingkindness. But it’s not enough; love is not “all you need.” Love without power is anemic!

We need love and power, chessed and gevurah - working together for the betterment of all. Yalla!

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