Tisha B’av in Jail

By August 13, 2019 Rabbi Tzemah's Blog
rabbi tzemah of city congregation arrested

Yesterday something changed for me. Until yesterday I believed that my days of stopping traffic, of getting arrested, of civil disobedience were over, at least until my beautiful children were older. I believed that my job was to inspire with words to help others take these extra steps. I was wrong.

As darkness and cruelty spread from Washington there are so many things we must resist. We cannot fight everything all the time, we have to make choices. I choose to focus on the treatment of refugees and specifically the most defenseless of refugees, young children. I choose this because my family were refugees. I choose this  because I have four little boys who I love more than life itself, and if someone took them away from me I would be broken.

Tisha B’av is our national day of mourning. A day when so many Jews were displaced from their homes and forced to wander. It is the day where we must shout at the top of our lungs ‘Never Again’. Never again will humanity sit complacent as refugees are treated like animals and denied basic rights. Never Again is Now.

Until yesterday Tisha B’av was a day I commemorated alone. I would fast, I would cry, I would write poetry, I would remember, but I found no way to channel this sadness. The Jewish communities I knew of focused on what had been in the distant past, on God, on the destruction of the temple, I did not relate to this. Then this year the greater Jewish community led by Tru’ah the Rabbinic call for Human Rights, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice organized this protest against immigration policy. Against any sort of facilitation of this cruelty.  I knew that I had to be there, but I wanted to take this extra step. I wanted to take this extra step, so that in a small way I could do something, disrupt, help change the course of events. I don’t know if did, but I tried.

My Aviva, my Boaz, and my community let me do that. Aviva gave me the extra night sleep before the protest. Boaz drew signs Kids against ICE. Aviva let me risk arrest. Many of you showed up in solidarity. That meant so much.

The day was so poignant.

My voice cracked as I read my part of the ceremony, Never again I screamed.

I wept when at the personal account at the refugees, I wept as I heard of the deaths of children.

I felt a rush of togetherness as I locked hands with my fellow clergy before the police arrested me, arrested all of us.

On the way to jail we sang for an hour and a half. We shall overcome, how many roads, Olam chesed yibaneh – the world shall be built with compassion. I wanted to believe that.

I was released from jail at 1 am, my court date is set for September 30th, Rosh haShanna, the Jewish day of judgment, what sweet irony! But I will not be there, I will be with City Congregation, judging myself, hoping.