03 February 2023
This week, I had the privilege of participating in Federation’s Rabbinic and Communal Leadership Mission to Alabama. Federation is proud and honored to create experiences like these as part of our ongoing efforts to support communal and organizational leaders.
As we work together to address hatred and antisemitism in our community and society at large, it is imperative that we learn about and truly face the long history of injustice and hatred in our country to become better allies.
During this mission, we visited many of the sites where key moments of the civil rights movement took place, including the Montgomery bus strike, Selma and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the Dexter Parsonage Museum and home to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. We also visited the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, established just a few years ago by the Equal Justice Initiative. The Museum and Memorial offer powerful historical context, connecting slavery, Jim Crow, wide-spread lynchings, and mass incarceration.
While the site visits provided important history and understanding, it was the conversations with Black leaders from the civil rights movement and today that made the trip both inspirational and challenging. These leaders each reflected on the moments they faced and continue to face in the struggle for equality. What does it mean to lead? When do you push or slow down? What are acceptable risks for yourself and others?
Our discussions focused both on the past and our community today. Where must we lead? What risks are we willing to assume as we work to improve the world in which we live? While our answers to each question differed in a variety of ways, our shared journey — through Alabama and these challenging topics — strengthened our connections with one another and our commitment to continuing this vital work together.
I was humbled and honored to travel alongside so many of our communal leaders and to participate in our collective effort to create change. I am proud of the group’s willingness to push themselves individually and each other in learning how we can begin to heal the fractures in our society. As we head into Shabbat, I encourage you to read more about the experiences in their words, which several participants shared via Facebook and blog posts throughout our journey.