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Olam Chesed Yibaneh: Building a World (and a nation) with Love

01/07/2021 11:49:21 AM

Jan7

As chaos unfolded in our nation’s capitol yesterday, I was scheduled to meet with our sixth grade students over zoom. Instead of teaching my prepared lesson, their teachers and I decided to give them space to talk about the current events of the day and to offer a prayer for peace.

The song we sang, “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, teaches that we must build a world from love. Rabbi Creditor wrote this song in response to 9/11 to help us heal after international terrorists threatened the security of our nation.

As I explained this to the students, I realized that these eleven and twelve year olds were born nearly a decade after the events of that terrible day. These preteens do not know a world in which we can get on an airplane without taking off our shoes or making sure that all liquids fit in a small plastic bag. Instead, they know a world in which people remain highly suspicious about individuals who come from certain ethnic backgrounds; a world in which we are acutely aware of the constant threats to our national and personal security.

Yesterday’s events were perpetrated by domestic terrorists from within our nation’s borders. Systemic racism has been a serious issue in the United States since its founding. After 9/11, we tightened our borders to give us the illusion of safety. Over the last twenty years, this has created a ripple effect of hatred that is now endemic to our nation. But now it has escalated to the point where our leadership refuses to denounce white supremacy. This came to a head yesterday when our president’s supporters stormed the capitol. They easily breached security and couldn’t be stopped because, among other reasons, the ability to bring in the National Guard was at the will of a president who supported such violence. This threat to they very basis of our democracy came from within, encouraged by propaganda perpetuated by our nation’s leadership.

The sixth graders were aware that something very bad and very dangerous happened in Washington yesterday, but they were reticent to talk about their own opinions. Why? They were afraid of offending anyone who might not agree with them. These kids have seen firsthand the dangers of controversy and have been trained to keep politics out of their day-to-day discussions. On the one hand, this shows a high level of maturity and self-awareness. However, I pray that they eventually gain the confidence to make their voices heard and to stand up for their beliefs in a way that is peaceful and just.

As our nation moves forward from this tragedy, my hope is that our democracy will continue to thrive. We are a people who come from many different ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds, but the one thing we’ve always been able to count on is the freedom that the United States of America stands for. Let’s do our best to keep it this way.

Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782