Being Jewish is Something You Do – Fairmount Temple Middle School Teacher Lindsay Marcus

This post on “If Not Now, When?” the interactive blog of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple is adapted from the remarks shared by Lindsay Marcus, who moderated our annual Stern Social Action Lecture on Yom Kippur, assisted by Amy Garnitz. We encourage you to respond below, to forward or post these words as a way of continuing the dialogue begun on Yom Kippur, September 14, 2013.

My name is Lindsay Marcus.  I am one of the 7-8th grade religious school facilitators and a mom of a student at the Fairmount Temple Early Childhood Center pre-schooler. Like many of you, I am a social justice activist and advocate.  Activism, for me, is cellular.  Embedded in every part of who I am and how I live my life.

My personal beliefs and career have, without question, been influenced by my Jewish up-bringing.  Who knew that in 6th grade, as the inaugural cohort of Project Love, that the  underpinning theme of Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof (rightousness, rightousness, shall you pursue) would become my purpose – that Judaism is more than a religion or culture – it’s something you DO.

Now, at Monday night religious school, themes of B’tzelem Elohim (being created in God’s Image), Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and Tikkun Ha Guf (repairing the body), not only provide me with meaningful Jewish teachings to impart on our future generation but also ground us as members of our Kehilla (community).  They reassure me that my daughter will be lovingly embraced in her Jewish faith with values like pursuing justice for those who have been wronged or treated unfairly, making the world better for all, and caring for and respecting our bodies and the bodies of others.

Being Jewish is something you do.  The most meaningful lessons are those that are interactive, shining light on the  questions to be answered through hands on experiences, and purposefully connecting with the struggle to answer those questions and find our place in the puzzle.

I was honored to be here on Yom Kippur to meet and moderate this  year’s Stern Social Action lecturer, Naomi Natale. An installation artist and photographer, Naomi Natale is the founding artist behind One Million Bones—a large-scale social arts practice that fuses education and hands-on art-making to raise awareness of genocide occurring worldwide, at this very moment.  When vieiwng the installation either in person or pictures or video, it harkens the image of a mass grave, piles of bones.  And juxtaposed for me the recent deadly use of sarin gas to kill innocent people in Syria.

I would be remiss to not talk about the obvious connection we as Jewish people have with modern Genocide.   Six million Jews, displaced from their families, sent to gas chambers, and thrown in mass graves.  The Holocaust is our most recent memory of the devastation our people just barely survived.

In truth, we are not so far removed from the memory and it’s our duty as Jews to bear witness to atrocities happening around the world and perform Mitzvot, Gmilut Chasadim, Tikkun Olam.  Because being Jewish is something you do – Rolling your sleeves up, utilizing your creativity and resources to repair the world. Activism is inherently Jewish.

The One Million Bones project, as I came to understand it, has been about ordinary people coming together, all united in their call to justice, to honor victims and survivors by hand-crafting one million bones to lay across the national mall in Washington, D.C.

It has touched the lives of many Jews. In fact, Naomi worked closely with synagogues,  schools, churches, communities, and organizations to fulfill her vision of One Million Bones.  Her installations raise awareness of and funds for survivors of genocide occurring today in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Burma, and of course Syria.

How lucky we were on Yom Kippur to be able to spend this most meaningful day of reflection growing our capacity for compassion and action! Why? Because being Jewish is something you do!