Parashat Vayehi

Self-Interest & Solidarity

There are many motivators for fighting injustice.

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Considering Darfur

Like Jacob's responses to the crime of Simon and Levi, our activism in response to the crisis in Darfur can be motivated by personal interest or moral outrage.

On a personal level, Jews can act because this genocide reminds us of the Holocaust and challenges our commitment of "Never Again." This narrative explains the outpouring of support from Jews for the people of Darfur. Indeed, not since the cause of my parents' generation, freeing the Jews in the Soviet Union, have we seen this kind of political engagement in the organized American Jewish community on an issue other than Israel.

Without drawing parallels to the Holocaust, however, we can act for Darfur because our moral compasses direct us to fight injustice, not only in Darfur but wherever it exists. While the recent surge of passion in the Jewish community has been fairly limited to Darfur, this involvement has the potential to open up doors for broader and more sustainable global justice activism.

My sister Adina was politicized in her day school around the issue of Darfur, and that initial experience is leading her to travel to El Salvador with AJWS to learn about global justice on a much larger scale. We must ensure that the education and organizing taking place about Darfur includes an analysis that extends to the myriad justice causes around the globe. It must inspire Darfur activists and donors to expand their activism to include other global justice issues in which they might feel less of a personal investment.

Perhaps we can fuse these two strategies, blending our understanding of self-interest and solidarity. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King challenges us to take this step when he says, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

We must bridge the gap between the personal and the moral; expand ourselves to let the world in.

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Alana Alpert

After receiving rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in June 2014, Alana will serve as the Rabbi/Organizer of Project Micah in Detroit, an exciting collaboration between Congregation T'chiyah and the Harriet Tubman Center. A trained community organizer, educator, and service-learning facilitator, she has worked in a number of Jewish and interfaith social justice organizations. She is passionate about the intersections of spiritual practice and social change.