This Tashlich, Let’s Cast Off Our Inaction Over Racism

A Rosh Hashanah prayer for the courage to step outside of our comfort zones.

“Jews don’t just pay lip service to change,” writes Jada Garrett. “We participate in rituals that spur us to take action.” (Courtesy)

Rosh Hashanah is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a time when we can block out all outside forces, be introspective and completely and brutally honest with ourselves, strip ourselves of all vanity and self-consciousness. Rosh Hashanah is about second (and third and fourth) chances, bringing in the new year with a fresh mindset. And this year, more than ever, I need to start fresh.

Jews don’t just pay lip service to change. We participate in rituals that spur us to take action. At Tashlich, for example, we throw crumbs in the water to symbolically rid ourselves of our sins. Tashlich, this year, will be exceptionally heavy for me. While being confined to the walls of my tiny house (walls that seem to get tighter and tighter by the day), I’ve had nothing but time to reflect on race: What it means to me and how it impacts me and my child’s world.

Throughout my life, one of my best coping mechanisms for racism was to overlook its impact on me. Growing up Black in predominantly White, southern, upper-middle class neighborhoods I was always conscious of the fact that people saw me differently, but I did my best to fit in and be accepted. I became desensitized to the afflictions of racism. I saw racism as something that just was. Something that couldn’t be changed or avoided. It’s something we all lived with, and it was never going to get better.

But Judaism teaches us that it can always be better. But we need to do our part.

Recent years, and especially this past year, 5780, has taught me to not let racism and microaggressions stand. Instead, I see it as critical to vocalize how I feel and how I’ve been treated. I do this not only for myself, but for my 11-year-old daughter, and the many communities to which we belong. My goal is to have my daughter grow up not trying to fit in and be accepted, but rather be herself, her own individual and to be proud of her Black and Latin and Jewish heritage.

Rosh Hashanah and Tashlich give us the opportunity to sit in the quiet of our hearts and reflect. I’m going to use this time to reflect on why I allowed myself to become jaded on the subject of equity and race and what I will do differently in 5781. How has race impacted my life and my daughter’s life? How did I react? How should I have reacted? Where have I been complicit in racism, in systems of oppression? What am I going to commit to doing in the next year to fight for equity and justice, to make sure that my child knows she can be her authentic Black, Latin, Jewish self, regardless of her environment.

By naming and hurling the transgressions away from us, we create distance from said transgression and commit ourselves to the change we need to make this world a better place. The literal act of casting off that which has prevented us from being our best gives us an opportunity to shed our transgressions and renew ourselves. Whoever we are, and no matter our racial or ethnic background, experiences or journeys, we can do better. We can go into the new year with an open mind and an open heart, armed with a new breath, a new spirit, and bravery and hope for this arduous journey.

Please join me in casting away our inactions and hesitations when it comes to racism with the following prayer:

  • I cast away my ignorance of racial injustice and commit to becoming more knowledgeable about how racism is perpetuated, how it’s been sustained and how I can do better in bringing equity to those who are marginalized.
  • I cast away ignoring harmful acts or words of racism and bigotry that occur in my presence and commit to calling out those acts and sharing my voice on why that act or those words were harmful.
  • I cast away judging those I perceive as different from me and commit to finding our similarities and enjoying those differences.
  • I cast away my conscious and unconscious bias and microaggressions that I am guilty of and commit to being more conscious of the way I am feeling/thinking at any given moment and mentally dissecting why I feel/think that way.
  • I cast away inaction and commit to taking action in the spirit of tikkun olam, a world of equity and justice for all.

Let us all commit to educating ourselves, being better allies and calling out and calling in acts of racism and injustice.

L’shana tova and g’mar hatima tova. May your new year be filled with enlightenment, sweetness and the courage to step outside of your comfort zone.

Jada Garrett is on a mission to create spaces where all Jews feel represented, appreciated and equal. She consults on strategic development for Be’chol Lashon and lives in Atlanta with her daughter.

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