In Pursuit of Justice
I spoke at the President's residence. About justice. Because these times deserve nothing less.
No, I am not referring to the President of the United States, rather of Israel. And no, the President of Israel is not Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the Prime Minister, rather Ruvi Rivlin. And no, this was not a new invitation, rather one I accepted in July before being pushed post-accident from November to February, and I still almost cancelled right up until leaving for the venue in Jerusalem. But it happened. How do I feel? Why did I make this choice? What does it mean? Who will respond in what way? Where do I go from here? Even without additional layers from the outside world, I have a million questions for myself about how this relates to and has either positive or negative consequences upon both my healing and the greater pursuit of justice.
Tzedek tzedek tirdof. Justice, justice you shall pursue… so says the Bible and so it was. No one in the audience had a clue about my accident, which was simultaneously refreshing, liberating, bizarre, uncomfortable and stressful (and only possible because of makeup, medicines and miracles, as well as practice, affirmations and blessed time, and also the fact that they had no point of comparison whatsoever). I had been invited to participate because of my “important perspective and unique voice regarding Israel and the Jewish people,” a point of pride and honor, to add value an at event that sought to "broaden and diversify the conversation… to strengthen moral and strategic relationships." I don’t accept any invitation without careful deliberation, especially with heightened qualms, trepidation and risks amid complex, ongoing recovery — during which I have only made one speech in five months. However the emphasis by the convening The Ruderman Family Foundation that this specific gathering focus on elevating new voices, new faces and new ideas that represent diverse fields from across society to update, bolster and progress understanding and commitments resonated deeply.
I was not raised religious and did not embark on my lifelong journey of service around environmental, social and humanitarian causes as a kid with any deliberate connection to Judaism, yet my grandmother long instilled in me the values of tikkun olam (repair of the world), chesed (loving kindness), tzedakah (charity) and tzedek (justice), which I saw as fundamental to my humanity, and now recognize as also relating to a faith, history and peoplehood. Only recently have I come to speak as a proud, progressive Jewish voice — since being “outed” and threatened as a Jew by white supremacists and neo-Nazis when running for office in 2016, then viewed as Jewish in the eyes of the world for the first time, and coming to realize, own and celebrate that identity myself. While I feel largely out of the loop on current events and political happenings — a result of not working for months and needing to temper my engagement in potential stressers, as my brain and body continue to heal — my values and priorities remain unchanged. Justice has always been a guiding force around which we can mobilize, across location, nationality, ethnicity, religiosity, ideologies, political party, age, all. The work knows no boundaries, requires an all hands on deck approach to collaborate, cross-pollenate and co-create, and remains paramount for me. In that very name of justice, I made the decision to follow through on this invitation, in addition to a burning need to return to Israel, the place where my accident took place in September, as I have thought through and written about extensively.
We all have innovative ideas, rich experiences and powerful perspective to share, but can only benefit from enhanced understanding, exchange and support IF we show up. Thus, I made a conscious choice to seize this opportunity to participate as an active citizen in a forum and setting I feel can catalyze and propel social good. For as long as I have breath, I will use my voice and body in pursuit of real, equal justice.