Posted on November 1, 2016 by Noah Horowitz
As a teenager, I sometimes cannot comprehend what is going on in the world today. Very often I hear of acts committed across America, and across the world, steeped in hatred and ignorance. Far too often, I see hot button issues talked about in the same hurtful ways in which they were discussed decades ago. When I hear about hate crimes committed today, police brutality, cases like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, situations motivated by, or at least as a result of institutionalized racism, homophobia, and hate, I cannot say that I am shocked; I cannot say that I am surprised. But I can say that I am appalled.
I can remember when I first learned about racism. At a very young age, I remember thinking, “Why does the color of skin matter?” and “Why are people so mean?” Today, at 17 years old, I am no closer to an answer.
In my life at home and here at Urban Mitzvah Corps New Jersey (UMC), I am surrounded by, and immersed in, diverse communities. Diversity is a source of strength, a value we must strive for when building loving, inclusive, and accepting communities. Now, more than ever before, I have the opportunity to engage with people from other backgrounds, each of whom has and tells their own unique narrative. Through participating in UMC last year, and serving as a student coordinator this year, I have learned the power of stories, the power of each person’s unique voice.
We are currently reading in the Torah from the book of Numbers, Bamidbar. Thematically, it addresses counting, demographics, statistics. Taking stock of those in our community. Here at UMC, we’ve been reflecting on the value of being counted, of being seen, of being validated. How do we feel heard? How do we help others in our community feel heard? How do we count those who feel invisible?
Sadly, our world does not always recognize the power of another’s experience. In many places around the country, acceptance and chesed, kindness, are not the values that undergird and bolster every community.
For many, the world currently feels chaotic, scary, and dangerous. I, however, hold hope for the future and the great possibility for change. By taking a step back it is important to remember that even in times of great social duress, the arc of history does bend toward justice.
I am appalled by recent, tragic events. I do, however, have hope. I have hope that one day, in the near future, people will realize that black lives matter. One day, everyone will understand that life is a precious thing. A gift to the universe. And with this gift, we will take care of each other, take action to cultivate a healed world of peace, and let all of our neighbors know how much they matter, that they count.
Together as a global community, we can take action to eliminate the terrible and senseless acts of violence we see today. And soon, people all around the world will recognize the power of diversity, the power of learning new perspectives and hearing new stories. I believe that my generation can end racism, and can teach that every soul counts. It is time for a change.
By Noah Horowitz, Urban Mitzvah Corps participant, Summer 2016
Editor’s Note: Each summer a growing number of our TBE youth participate in Jewish summer programs. Several of our TBE youth blogged about their summer experiences. We’re pleased to share the blog post of Noah Horowitz. Noah was the student coordinator at Urban Mitzvah Corps, a program that provides participants with an authentic opportunity to explore their Jewish identities through the lens of social justice and engagement with new communities.
Originally published July 8, 2016 on the Mitzvah Corps blog, (mitzvahcorps.org/blog/), reprinted with permission