Guest Post by JVP – LA chapter member, Socket Klatzer
Since last year I have been working with Ilana Lerman and the JVP Rabbinical Council on helping to create political actions that are based in Jewish tradition or ritual. I signed up to develop something for JVP to do around Purim as it is one of my favorite holidays. And then the election happened. And then the cabinet happened, and then the executive orders happened. And all along we are mobilizing into action. So, after an inspiring conversation with Ezra Nepon from JVP-Philly about the transformative nature of purim shpiels (plays) and other ideas about how to get people into action, and a few wonderfully generative exchanges with Ilana Lerman, we decided to run with the idea of delivering mishloach manot to the Muslim Community as an act of friendship and solidarity. A way to use holiday traditions as a political message, and a way to continue building coalitions with the Muslim community against Xenophobia and Islamophobia.
So, after a few drafts we generated this document we called “We Show UP! Care Packages for our Neighbors & Partners in the Fight”. I brought this idea to the JVP- LA chapter and Avital Aboody and I met one afternoon and came up with a plan. Avital brought organization, energy, focus and skill to this project. It would not have happened without her. With Purim only a couple weeks away, we first need to see how much community support we could get for this project. We liked the idea of bringing gifts to the Movement for Back Lives and/or supporting water protectors locally, but ultimately decided to focus our efforts specifically on mosques and Islamic community centers. Estee Chandler helped us make a list of the Islamic organizations we had existing relationships with and divided them amongst the JVP-LA members who stepped up to help organize this event. We had an amazing team – Monique Lopez, Eitan Peled , Sarah Jacobus, Avital and myself. Each of us called a few organizations and got some great advice, as well as a list of mosques that were weren’t previously familiar with. Ultimately, based on our limited capacity, we decided to work specifically with one organization that was very responsive and interested in receiving our gifts–the IMAN (Iranian-American Muslim Association of North America) Cultural Center in West Los Angeles. We created a timeline, task list,and a grocery list, and went forward. The teamwork on this part was great. Monique and Avital worked on resizing and printing the postcard, a beautiful Micah Bazant image with the message “We Will Defend Each Other”. All three of us worked on developing the message:
Please enjoy this care-package of sweets and good wishes shared in the spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood and solidarity. Our organization, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression, and seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
The Jewish holiday of Purim is on March 12 and it is customary on this holiday to prepare and deliver small gift baskets to friends and family. JVP-LA has decided to extend this tradition to our Muslim brothers and sisters at the IMAN Cultural Center. In these uncertain and challenging times, we hope that you know that JVP-LA is here to support you in any way that we can. We stand with you and affirm our commitment to build strong relationships with your community.
With Love and Solidarity,
We also sent blank postcards with handwritten messages to organizations we connected with, but ultimately could not deliver the packages to because of timing and distance.
Some folks went shopping and picked up the supplies: hamantaschen, hershey’s kisses, teabags, dates, a poem by hafiz, the card, gift bags and ziplocs. This is the poem we included:
Of a great need
We are all holding hands
Not loving is a letting go.
The terrain around here
We picked one night and had a care package compiling party. It was lovely. We were creating community with each other and building our relationships internally. We shared food and listened to music together. And the work went quickly.
After making arrangements with people over at the IMAN Center, we arrived on Friday afternoon as some community members were having lunch after noon prayer. We had wonderful conversations about our intention for this Purim offering. We talked about JVP, Palestine solidarity, the current political moment, and about ways to show up for each other as communities. But, mostly we listened. We were invited to stay for lunch and listen to people talk about what was on their mind and started the process of getting to know each other. We talked about Purim from various perspectives, and we were invited back to have lunch any Friday afternoon that we could come.The community members at the IMAN Cultural Center were really touched by our gesture and it was a really special opportunity for our JVP chapter to make new friends and exercise our values in this very tangible way. We look forward to continuing to share our customs and build relationships with the local Muslim community. We need each other now more than ever.