Tikkun, Winter 2011
An Open Letter to Young Jewish Tikkunistas
by Barry Barkan
As a Jewish elder, I bless you and all the young people who are carrying forth the torch of healing and repair. May you have the strength, courage, wisdom, and joy to sustain you and uplift your lives in the troubled times ahead.
Though I am speaking specifically to Jewish activists, I also welcome our sisters and brothers from all traditions to listen in.
The course of history has not been kind to the Jewish people. After the Shoah, it appeared that anti-Semitism was so discredited that our people would never again be threatened by extinction. But here we are again. The fabric of human community is at risk of being shredded, and there are individuals and nations committed to the total destruction of Israel and of the entire Jewish people.
Despite our own victimization, in every struggle for justice and healing Jews have been right there, often risking our own safety and sacrificing our treasure. This is by no means a random coincidence. There is something deeply embedded in our epigenetic coding that inherently draws us to be warriors for justice and hope and fierce opponents of injustice. This is so much so, that many Jews on the left ignore the genocidal intentions of those who would destroy us and focus solely on the condemnation of Israel and her supporters.
But it can't be one or the other. We need to be both the champions of the rights of the other and fierce defenders of our people and our right to exist among the nations. We cannot survive unless the right wing and the left wing are part of one unified organism, bound together by our common survival.
Hillel the Elder, who taught a Torah of love and justice as the first century BCE began, told us we should love the other as ourselves. Not an easy task, particularly when there is deep conflict, paranoia, and imbedded hatred.
But it is the only way for us. Young tikkunistas need to be within the camp of our people even as you challenge injustices to the Palestinian people. Practically speaking, this means that even as we advocate the freeing up of Gaza's borders, we demand that Hamas stop the shelling and teaching of young children to dedicate their lives to our destruction. Even as we stand for the rights of Palestinians to have a state, so do we demand access to all of our sacred sites and challenge all Arab nations to allow Jews to live within their borders as free citizens.
Peace is peace. Justice is justice. It is a two-way street.
The same Hillel the Elder taught us:
If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?
This is the prescription for young Jewish tikkunistas as you dedicate yourselves to justice for all and our safety and survival as a people.
Barry Barkan has been a leader in elder-centered community action for thirty years. He is an Ashoka Felow, founder of the Elders Guild, Co-Director of the Live Oak Institute in Berkeley, California, and has written widely about culture change.
See Barry Barkan's article "How Elders Can Rebalance the World" in the September/October 2007 Tikkun.
Source Citation: Barkan, Barry. 2011. An Open Letter to Young Jewish Tikkunistas. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive.