A Converation About The Many Benefits of Being a Victim

Experience Time:  4 minutes to read – 5 minutes to digest = 9 minutes of your day.

Reading Time: 3 minutes, 9 seconds. Contains 600 words  (calculated by http://niram.org/read/)

Skim Time: Don’t skim this. Seriously. If you don’t have the time to invest a couple minutes right now, come back when you do. Skimming through life and looking for more knowledge won’t make any difference for you. You need to take the time to invest in getting something (experientially) from reading this. If you’re in skimming mode, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that or bad, it just won’t work and my intention in writing this is that it work.

My intention in writing this article is: to have you take a look at where in your life you are being a victim of something or someone. 
——-

It can be scary acknowledging that we do have choice and are not ever victims…but it is one of the most powerful steps in starting to get complete and at peace with everything in your life.

So take a hard look. Does Torah and Mitzvos occur to you as this system you are the victim of?

I was coaching one of my clients this past week and what came out was that this guy literally lives in a world where he is bound hand and feet, by the system of halacha and is a total victim to it.

He’s unsatisfied, unfulfilled and the only thing that keeps him going is that he gets to feel like he’s doing life “right” and “better” than everyone else because he is frum.

Not in a malicious way, just what’s there for him.

The truth (at least from my eyes)? He’s a beautiful human being. I was so moved during our conversation at his commitment to his family.

I asked him at one point while he was talking about how he has no choice and that yiddishkeit is the only thing he can do and that he also has no choice about his family because he HAS to take care of them:

“Dovid (not his name obviously) hang on one second. Who decided that halacha means anything?”

Dovid: “What do you mean? It’s emes!”

Me: “Yes you believe that and I happen to also believe that, but you know there are jews who don’t believe it’s emes right? There are even jews who grew up frum like yourself that decided Torah doesn’t mean anything. So my question is. who decided FOR YOU that it means anything TO YOU in your world?”

Dovid: [add more back and forth before this point] “I guess…I…did.”

Me: “Right. So how are you a victim again?”

Dovid: “But I don’t feel like I have a choice.”

Me: “I get that. I can see that. AND your feelings have nothing to do with reality. You actually live like your feelings mean anything in reality. As if they get to determine what’s true and real. And because you don’t feel like you have a choice you make that mean that in reality you don’t. Am I right or wrong on that? You tell me.”

Dovid: No, that’s right.

Berry: But do you?

Dovid: But what about my family, my 4 kids? I don’t have a choice there!

Berry: Look, Dovid. I’m not saying you’re not in a tough spot.I really do get the fear and frustration and guilt and shame and the seemingly impossible situation you’re living in. And if you want that, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s wrong or bad to continue this way or to just bite the bullet and live a religious and marital life sentence. I also don’t think it’s wrong or bad to leave both. The question is…what do you REALLY want. Because whatever that is, I’m committed to having you powerhousing THAT into reality!

But it all begins with a choice. Because victims don’t get to choose the life they want. And I also do get how very much it seems that you don’t have a choice and have no good options and what’s also true is that you do have options and choices. You know there are people who buy a one way ticket to some exotic place and escape it all. I’m not suggesting you do that but what is this nonsense? Of course you have a choice! You can choose to powerfully invest in your marriage and your community and religion. You can choose to practice it publicly and privately not. You can choose to stay in your marriage and speak to your wife about exploring how you can start to feel more engaged and alive within the marriage. You can leave. I mean, there are endless options here.

But here’s what you want to start to look at. If it is true that you have choice and are not a victim, why are you living in a world where you don’t? Meaning, what do you gain by being in that world? What is the benefit of being a victim?

TO BE CONTINUED…

——

Again, right now this occurs to this man as conceptually true perhaps but experientially false as he does not feel like he has choice AND he relates to his feelings like the truth. The real breakthrough won’t necessarily even come from something directly related to his marriage and frumkeit…it may come in a minor area but will come as he starts to relate to his life based on his commitments and starts to reduce the significance of his internal state of affairs.

 

[Please note the following:

a) this is a slice and a window into a conversation without the previous context of past conversations as well as the before and after of this conversation itself

b) I don’t bring any agenda to my clients or just stam people I interact with. MY only agenda is that they get empowered to fulfill on what’s important to THEM. It’s about their agenda not mine

c) I asked this man if I could use this conversation to make a difference for other people in an article and he agreed.]

Thank you to Rabbi Gershon Shusterman, Jackie Stern, Eli Soble, Rabbi Fink, Tzvi Bleich and Dovi Seldowitz for reading a draft of this article and providing insightful feedback.

P.S. Here’s what I’m NOT SAYING:

I’m not saying feelings aren’t important, valuable and/or necessary.

I’m not saying this man needs to do anything, whether to stay or go.

I’m not saying he has great options to choose from.

I’m not saying he is a sub-par husband for feeling this way.

 

I’m simply saying what I’m saying.

 

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, OR if you disagreed with it and yet it had you come alive and start thinking about what really matters to you AND you want to give something back to me, I have a request of you!

Share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

Find me on facebook http://on.fb.me/1vOyXKU or twitter http://bit.ly/1BtOnFD or shoot me an email berryschwartz[at]gmail[.com] to let me know how my content is working (or not) for you.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

Posted in Choice

When Torah’s Morality Appears Bankrupt – An Approach

Experience Time:  6 minutes to read – 5 minutes to digest = 11 minutes of your day.

Reading Time: 5 minutes, 9 seconds. Contains 1033 words  (calculated by http://niram.org/read/)

Skim Time: Don’t skim this. Seriously. If you don’t have the time to invest a couple minutes right now, come back when you do. Skimming through life and looking for more knowledge won’t make any difference for you. You need to take the time to invest in getting something (experientially) from reading this. If you’re in skimming mode, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that or bad, it just won’t work and my intention in writing this is that it work.

 

My intention in this article is: to give you a glimpse into my recent struggle with parts of Torah that, by today’s standards at least, appear unpalatable, even obscene. I don’t go the classic route of trying to justify, or simply even understand. I offer two approaches that I think work on the experiential level. If you are seeking something that works for you on the conceptual level, perhaps seek elsewhere today! :)

 

——

Did it ever bother you that, if beis din was alive and well today, if Jewish law was being implemented fully, that we would kill people for, say, driving on Shabbas?

It never bothered me.

Until last week.

I’m walking along Eastern Parkway on my way to study at this rustic gorgeous coffee shop for my final law exams when it hits me.

I’m like staggered by the thought of literally stoning a man to death for a crime against God and Torah.

Last week, a good friend of mine, confided in me that, although he is a well known and much loved member of the community, the truth is that he doesn’t really think God exists, and that if even if God does, he’s not at all convinced that the Torah is God’s word.

SO take this guy, let’s call him Ari, who despite having serious doubts always kept Shabbas. And one day, it’s just too much, and, in a moment of frustration and doubt decides to flip the light on Shabbas. Just then two friends of his come by and are all like, Ari don’t do it! Beis din will kill you. And he goes, “I don’t care. I can’t stand it anymore, I can’t live a life not knowing if it’s true or not!”

So he flips the switch.

I mean, my goodness, we’re gonna kill this guy.

Or, imagine a good friend of yours, who in a moment of weakness sleeps with another man’s wife.

Do you know we would stone them?

Of course you know but do you KNOW?!

I remember growing up, in my interactions with reform and conservative Jews who would challenge these laws, that I would scoff and laugh at them. But now it was hitting me on a emotional level. I couldn’t believe it. Where is the mercy and compassion for someone who bitterly regrets a moment of weakness that is now going to define his very life?!

I mean, my friend Ari, in my opinion deserves a frikkin medal for lasting 40 years of scrupulously frum even while harboring real doubts about the whole enterprise! Instead, we come down on him for that one time and send him to the guillotine?!

Think of his wife and kids sobbing as he’s led out in chains. This might still be conceptual for you…but one day it might hit you in the gut, as it did me last week.

So first I was like, “ Well, there’s no absolute morality without God in the first place and the real inherent value of human life is only given by his values for it, so why can’t he decide when a human life is forfeit?”

And that is true. I do believe that. But my god, fine he COULD but WHY does he HAVE to?!

Here you have someone who was there for God his whole life even though he never saw and heard from God directly and then this?! The crushing severity is …well, crushing.

It’s almost lacking in basic mentchlichkeit.

Whatever.

My intention is not to give you doubts as well, or the feeling I had. It’s to communicate two distinct points to you.

Do you think any of this affected my commitment to God and Torah at all? No it didnt .

My performance and actions were not and will not be affected by this. Why is that? How could it be it doesn’t affect my yiddishkeit at all?

Seriously. Pause and think about it.

——

The answer is because I’m in a committed relationship with God.

Look…imagine one day my wife, god forbid, murders someone in a fit of cruel and sudden anger.

Yes, I’d be shocked, dismayed, would have to deal with it, and with the fact that either I did not know who she was or that human beings are always fallible to the most basic sins and failures. Etc….

But she’s my wife.

Period.

It would not threaten our relationship. I gave her my word and I’m committed for life.

So why is it different with God?

[If you haven’t given your word to God to be in a committed relationship with him for life, that’s another story.]

If there are things within Judaism that strikes us as shocking, incompatible, unbelievable…fine. Deal with it. But perhaps it can be dealt with by realizing that it’s not our crap. It’s God’s. He’ll have to deal with it and will deal with it one day.

[Note: This is all in the world of emotion and experience. Of course, in the world of concept and logic, (which rarely drives our behavior) there is a reality where, whatever God does is the ultimate good and is beautiful. What I’m suggesting is that that may not really work in the world of visceral experience. So let God’s issues be God’s issues and not yours.]

 

2) If the above seems abstract or weird, or just not relatable here’s another thought:

I was speaking to my wife about this and she said, “Look, there’s a reason there is no beis din carrying out stoning these days. A divine reason. We’re only built and meant to deal with what is in our reality and experience. Stonings are not for us to deal with, and there’s a reason for that. Hashem knows what we can handle.”

And it was so resonant for me. It’s so tempting sometimes to have all these questions and problems etc…but it’s also not effective at having a yiddishkeit that works. Deal with that God gave YOU not jews of thousands of years past.

I used to be so upset with the Rebbe that he told people to have so many kids and then I see men in their forties with 10 kids struggling so hard to support that family and dealing with constant stress. And then I realized, it’s not my struggle and fight. Let me own my stuff and deal with MY experience of the Rebbe’s directives.

If someone else has doubts about God or Torah and is struggling, be there, support them, provide a safe space for them to show up inside of, but what I’m learning to do is not to own that struggle for myself.

Not the truth. But not a bad place to come from either.

 

Thank you to Rabbi Gershon Shusterman, Jackie Stern, Eli Soble, Rabbi Fink, Tzvi Bleich and Dovi Seldowitz for reading a draft of this article and providing insightful feedback.

You can listen to this article here: https://soundcloud.com/dovber-schwartz/aud-20150514-wa0004-aac

P.S. Here’s what I’m NOT SAYING:

I’m not saying the conceptual explanations offered in chassidus and elsewhere are invalid.

I’m not saying God is evil or bad.

I’m not saying Torah is outmoded and has now been surpassed by modern ethics and morality.

I’m not saying that frum people need to deal with this.

I’m not saying that if you’re not troubled by this, you’re missing something.

 

I’m simply saying what I’m saying.

 

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, OR if you disagreed with it and yet it had you come alive and start thinking about what really matters to you AND you want to give something back to me, I have a request of you!

Share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

Find me on facebook http://on.fb.me/1vOyXKU or twitter http://bit.ly/1BtOnFD or shoot me an email berryschwartz[at]gmail[.com] to let me know how my content is working (or not) for you.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

Posted in Struggles with Torah/Judaism/God

Doubting God or the Torah? Great, now what?

Get complete with any doubts about God or halacha you may have. Deal with it and move on, don’t let it linger there in the space.

Constantly doubting if God exists and/or is truly invested in halacha as the expression of His will, is like being married to someone and have real unresolved concerns that this person is not right for you. It is not a workable situation and causes needless grief for you.

However, accepting the normal and inevitable sporadic doubts about your spouse/relationship as part of the context of your relationship is quite awesome!

If with real human beings, such as our spouses we still occasionally don’t quite feel it or aren’t sure every moment that they’re the right one, then its certainly likely you’ll experience that with God.

Don’t be a crazy person! It’s ok, even normal to doubt God at times. I think a lot of the concerns people have with religious uncertainty they experience is that they feel it shouldn’t be there.

Stop the craziness! Of course you’ll have real moments of doubts.

So do that with God and :

  1. move on in life, enjoying an awesome halachic relationship with Him

  2. OR enjoy your life without Him and be clear He does not exist for you

  3. OR be clear with Him and yourself that you believe in Him and that halacha is him communicating how He would like to be treated AND that you are not willing to be there for Him on his requests for connection

  4. OR get clear that He exists but you don’t believe halacha is Him telling us what works for him!

It does not need to be for life, you can determine when to set a time to re-examine the relationship and/or what factors or experiences would make you open to re-exploring the dynamics.

In other words, it’s a relationship. You need to develop your own inner bond with God. Struggle is good, struggle is real, and struggle keeps you present and intimately growing with God.

But the lingering uncertainty that is never dealt with, is what truly weighs us down in our relationships.

Get the raw me here: https://soundcloud.com/dovber-schwartz/aud-20150512-wa0022-aac

Posted in Foundational

Chassidus tells us the WHAT but not (always) the HOW?

Experience Time:  10 minutes to read – 5 minutes to digest = 15 minutes of your day.

Reading Time: 8 minutes (calculated by http://niram.org/read/)

Skim Time: Don’t skim this. Seriously. If you don’t have the time to invest 20 minutes right now, come back when you do. Skimming through life and looking for more knowledge won’t make any difference for you. You need to take the time to invest in getting something from reading this. If you’re in skimming mode, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that or bad, it just won’t work and my intention in writing this will not be realized for you.

My intention in this article is: to have you take a look at a conversation I had with someone and see what you get from it.

 

———-

Berry: Can I speak to you for a couple minutes?

Random Guy In Kollel: Sure.

Berry: What are you learning?

Random Guy In Kollel: I’m learning about koach hamisave…the power of desire inside all of us.

Berry: Awesome! What is it? Can you speak to me about it without any Hebrew terms or words? I find that my brain thinks it knows what is being said when Hebrew words are used even when it doesn’t.

Random Guy In Kollel: So I’m not exactly sure…it’s the part that wants stuff…

Berry: Where in the body is that? What part of me is that? I ask because wouldn’t knowing help and being able to look at how that part works…what the principles of it are?

Random Guy In Kollel: Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know if it can be located in the body.

Berry:  Ok I got that. And I’m proposing that it’s actually referring to the brain. Any thought, desire or even feeling you have comes from the brain. Isn’t that the koach hamisave?

Random Guy In Kollel: Maybe.

Berry: Look, the real reason I’m here speaking to you is that I wanted to know what you thought of a statement but I first wanted to see what your style of learning chassidus is like to make sure you’re the right guy to ask.

Random Guy In Kollel: OOOOOK.

Berry: My broader point is that chassidus tells us WHAT we need to do to get to x…Like an  Olympic training book…BUT it doesn’t actually tell you the HOW…it tells you how important thing are and the truth about reality..there’s a lot in there about WHAT to do and the IMPORTANCE of certain actions etc…but what about the HOW to get there?

Random Guy In Kollel: Not sure I agree with that.

Berry: Ok.

Random Guy In Kollel: Because there’s also some stuff that says how…

Berry: Really…where?

Random Guy In Kollel: Not sure…in some of the frediker rebbe’s stuff I believe.

Berry: Look, here’s the deal though. You’ve been learning for over a decade right? Can you tell me how much you’ve advanced in a specific skill set of iskafya? I’m not asking this facetiously.

Random Guy In Kollel: LOL. I don’t know man.

Berry: And you’re from the best. I can see you’re a thoughtful sensitive and deeply religious man. Can you share with me measurable results and milestones you’ve gotten out of your investment in chabad chassidus?

Random Guy In Kollel: It’s not all about us you know. I also learn for Hashem.

Berry: I got that. Very beautiful actually. But you know there is no shortage of holy sefarim to learn for Hashem. And isn’t one of the central points of chassidus to change us? To have us advance in our bittul and religious experience?

Random Guy In Kollel: I suppose. I guess I just don’t think that a lot of chassidus practice is attainable for me. I try hard you know…but I’m just not a big chassid.

Berry: I hear that. What I’m suggesting is that you have not NOT achieved the chassidic ideal because YOU have a lack of enough willpower or control or however you have it. I’m suggesting that most of what you’ve invested in chassidus was learning about WHAT there is to do not the HOW of how to get there.

[Here’s where the conversation got real interesting. That idea really hit him and he thought it over for a while...like 45 seconds of silence...I don’t know what he was actually thinking but my interpretation was that it was a very freeing idea for him but would have placed the lack on chassidus instead of him, and he also was not willing to go there. Again...just my interpretation of those 45 seconds.]

Berry: Do you know that I did hisbonenus and meditation for two years before davening every morning and nothing really happened…no measurable or subtle change in my growth and character nor even more control of my brain. My mind  was always racing, and I could never get more than a minute or two of uninterrupted thinking of a maamer.

Then about 3 years ago I went to an hour seminar on calming the mind for stress…and got more out of that, in terms of mindful focus,  than two years of chassidic meditation…

Imagine if I could calm my mind and then do hisboneneus on a maamer!

My only point is that chassidus assumes you know the HOW like, for example, HOW to calm your mind and empty it so that you can have the space to immerse yourself mindfully in a maamer. It’s not bad, it’s just not meant for that.

Random Guy In Kollel: Interesting.

Berry: And, you know, I’ll be the first one to acknowledge that there is a lot of expectations and hopes I had for chassidus and there could definitely be some frustration there for me running my perspective on this.

Berry: Why am I really saying all this? Because I want to show you something….my only commitment here is to have YOU more engaged with what YOU tell me is important to YOU.

So…I’m going to ask you a question, and I know you’ll not want to answer yes or no and I’m asking you to answer yes or no anyways…ready? Do you care about God?

Random Guy In Kollel: Well….it’s not a yes or no…I mean I care in theory…

Berry: I got that and I didn’t ask if you care in theory…a lot of people care to be a millionaire in theory…or to wake up real early and start the day with a workout or run…they like the IDEA of it…they don’t actually care for it though …they won’t go through the work it takes….MY question to you is: do you in reality care about God?

Random Guy In Kollel: Well I don’t know…if I really cared…I would be doing more…

Berry: Like what? Take a look at today…

Random Guy In Kollel: After davening shachris, I know I should eat a quick breakfast in yeshiva and then go straight to learning, but I often go instead to my cousins on Carrol and eat breakfast there and hang out with them for a bit.

Berry: Ok great. Do you care about God when ur speaking to your cousins?

Random Guy In Kollel: Hmmm I mean, I think that actions are all that REALLY matters…so no? But I think I actually do…I don’t really know what caring means…been thinking about that…I think its focus…I’m also getting married soon, so this is great to think about.

Berry: Perfect. Perfect. So honest and clear so thank you. Now..are you open to some coaching from me? Or are you not interested?

Random Guy In Kollel: Sure, go ahead. I’m waiting for someone anyway.

Berry:  I’m committed to you discovered something about your speaking to your cousins that will give you access to dealing with it powerfully and taking action on what you really want instead of it kinda always being there in the background as a regret or complaint.

Random Guy In Kollel: Well, if I really care about the right thing, then why don’t I just go straight to learning..why do I go over there like 3 times a week?

Berry: Maybe you care about the WHAT you just were trained in the HOW of that self control. Which goes back to my earlier point.  Or maybe you don’t actually want to give up speaking to cousins, and you’re hiding from that…being inauthentic about that and pretending that you do. …or maybe it’s because God doesn’t really mind if you speak to your cousins for a bit and you’re picking up on that? I’m not saying he does or doesn’t …that’s up to you.

———————-

Finally, he said…well I don’t really know who I am…I’ve been struggling with that…

This was big…on the one hand I wanted him to get that actions don’t dictate WHO you are…they just show WHAT you’re actually committed to…

And on the other hand he himself didn’t know who he was even though he said its actions..because  his actions were conflicted, sometimes doing what he perceived as the right thing (not speaking to cousins) and sometimes the wrong thing (hanging out with them for 30 min in morning after davening) so the agony of identity through conflicting actions set in.

[That’s my term for people, ironically usually Tanya learners and chabadniks who still don’t get Tanya’s crazy-and-awesome idea that actions don’t get to have a say on WHO you are.]

He had to go…

I left him with this:

“Maybe you won’t find out who you are and figure it out or discover it…MAYBE you’ll create it…YOU’LL decide who you are for yourself and create it instead of waiting to discover something!

He liked that a lot.

He’s getting married soon.

 

—–

Thank you to Dr. Susskind and Jackie Stern for reading a draft of this article and providing insightful feedback.

P.S. Here’s what I’m NOT SAYING:

I’m not saying there is NO content in chassidus addressing the how of meditation.

I’m not saying there is no value in looking at your desires and aspirations and ONLY looking

at your actions.

I’m not saying that this guy needs to change anything or do more or less for God.

I’m simply saying what I’m saying.

 

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, OR if you disagreed with it and yet it had you come alive and start thinking about what really matters to you AND you want to give something back to me, I have a request of you!

Share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

Find me on facebook http://on.fb.me/1vOyXKU or twitter http://bit.ly/1BtOnFD or shoot me an email berryschwartz[at]gmail[.com] to let me know how my content is working (or not) for you.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

Posted in Conversations

An aveirah in no way compromises your worth and beauty.

You’re worth and beauty is in no way compromised by an aveirah.

Look… the fact that I’m ok with my failures is actually what gives me the power to deal with them quickly and without drama, without “needing to be ok”.

If I’m not ok as a person or as a jew when I do an aveirah then there is so much riding on that aveirah. How could my reaction to it NOT be riddled with myself and tied in to my self worth?

But the fact that I’m fundamentally ok even if I do a aveirah gives me the clarity to deal with where I’m not fulfilling on my commitment to hashem with speed and clarity.

Au contraire.

 

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

 

Posted in Foundational

If Judaism does not bring you joy, you’re doing it wrong.

If serving God does not bring you to joy, you’re doing it wrong.

And by wrong, I don’t mean you need to do more of it.

Because if it’s bringing you to anxiety and frustration then maybe less of it for YOU would be best.

Because whatever you’re doing, it sure as heck ain’t serving God.

You see, God says, ivdu es hashem besimcha…if you are serving ME, you have no other way of being than besimcha.

Is this the truth?

No.

It’s made up.

So stop checking if you agree with it.

But it’s not a bad place to come from.

Posted in Stam

You can have it all

We’ve gotta stop this conversation in the frum community!!!

Listen here to find out what I’m talking about!

Posted in Stam

Is it all about you?

Is it all about you? Or is it not about you at all?

Is it sometimes about you?

Is it somewhat about you?

Here’s how I see it:

It’s totally all about you, of course it is.

It would be silly if it weren’t.

If it’s not about you, then what’s the point? Why are you needed?

If it’s not about you, then God has some serious explaining to do why we exist in such a broken world, where so many people live broken painful lives (truth is, he is on the hooks for that regardless).

I’m asserting it’s completely about you.

AND it’s about you getting that it’s not about you. It’s about HIM. And everything that he’s about IS you.

Which means it’s about YOU.

You’ve gotta get that He’s madly in love with you man!!!

That’s radically amazing.

He desires to be with you, to live with you, within you in fact (bitoch kol echad viechad)!

Let that marinate for a bit.

Take the rest of the day to be curious about what He could possibly find so amazing about YOU that He is totally into you.

P.S. Check out what happened yesterday!

IMG_6127

 

Jews and Blacks running together, showing support for one another, being willing to stand for, and take action on, a different type of neighborhood vibe in Crown Heights.

Where were you?!?! Get in on this man for next month’s unity run!

Posted in Bittul

Jews And Blacks Unite (JABU) is launching this Sunday

images

Reading Time: 3 minutes, 43 seconds. Contains 746 words  (calculated by http://niram.org/read/)

Skim Time: 2 minutes

 

My intention in this article is: to inform you of an exciting new possibility being created this Sunday for the two communities in Crown Heights: the black community and the jewish community. What is it? A solidarity jog where Jews and Blacks sweat together and show support for each other’s wellbeing.

————–

Ever since I’ve moved here to Crown Heights four years ago, something I’ve been shocked by is, how little relatedness there is between the two communities here in Crown Heights: the black community and the Jewish community.

I’m very clear and certain that both sides have good reasons, substantial reasons for this distance, even tension at times, between the two. Chassidim will point to the 1990 riots and the Jews who were killed or harmed then by black people. Other Chassidim, myself included, have been mugged or harassed by black youth in the community.

The black community has its own good reasons and its own substantial basis for the tension that exists.  I don’t know them as well as I’d like to, but I know they exist.

Let’s be honest. We’re not the easiest bunch to live with. Even God said so (rough paraphrasing here from the Torah: “You guys are so frikin stubborn…you’re lucky I love you so much” says God.) Besides which, there are some jews within our community that have a bit of a bias against black people and black people in the neighborhood have experienced that.

All of which is to say, we’re both of us, human beings with faults and selfish concerns that we live with and which, sometimes even run us. We both tend to stereotype the other. All that means is we have a brain without an off switch.

Great, so we all have a complaint; now what?

Now, some people would like to say there is no real issue, that this is a made up issue, or that it’s just another attempt to portray us in a bad light.

Look, the truth is…there is nothing wrong with the way things are right now.

Really.

We’ve all been getting by, and life is showing up and we’re all dealing with that.

A great many jews here maintain a respectful space for the black community. A great many black people maintain a respectful space for the jewish community.

This isn’t about making right something that is wrong.

This is about blowing the roof off of this big ole thang called the Crown Heights community.

It’s really about the possibility that both communities, in their entirety maintain a respect and dignity for the other even while acknowledging how very different the other is.

So if the goal is to create relatedness, support, even trust between the two communities here, how to do it?

I started stopping almost every black person I saw on the streets and talking to them about the current state of affairs as well as what they think is possible for our communities. This led to many fruitful and beautiful conversations with amazing human beings but no answer.

Finally, one day on the subway, I suddenly discovered the perfect solution. It was great and dealt with both problems.

A monthly solidarity run.

Imagine it: no talking, no figuring out who is at blame for what, or even who can step up to do X Y or Z.

Just male human beings, some jewish, some black, jogging together and showing support for each other’s wellbeing. Taking a stand for what’s possible instead of how it’s always been.

I sweat; you sweat; we all sweat.

[Like the story with Reb Mendel Futerfas who would do mivtzoyim by stopping people on the street and saying. "I jewish, I teffilin, you jewish, you teffilin."

Now, that's achieving relatedness with speed!]

I mean it’s crazy.

If there are any two groups that should be standing shoulder to shoulder it’s jews and blacks, arguably the two most harassed and beat-up-on communities in the world.

We’ll be joined by some courageous and beautiful black human beings who will be taking a stand with us!

So … what do you say?

Will you create a neighborhood where both communities maintain a respectful dignity of the other and even have lines of connection between the two?

Hell, what else are you doing this Sunday besides making a difference ;)

This Sunday, April 19th at 11am, we will be gathering by Eastern Parkway and Kingston and jogging to Prospect Park.

Please email me at berryschwartz [at] gmail to let me know if you’ll be there, if you might be there or just your two cents.

 

 

P.S. What this is not about:

1. This is not about any sort of interfaith dialogue where jews and non-jews have conversations about their religions’ similarities or differences.

2. This is not even about jews and non-jews per se. This is about jews and blacks, neighbors in this community, standing for each other and investing in a respectful relatedness between the two communities.

3. This is not about any specific agenda or hoped-for-outcome. This is simply human beings, some of whom are jewish and some of whom are not AND have dark skin color, coming together to show support for each other’s wellbeing.

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, OR if you disagreed with it and yet it had you come alive and start thinking about what really matters to you AND you want to give something back to me, I have a request of you!

Share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

Find me on facebook http://on.fb.me/1vOyXKU or twitter http://bit.ly/1BtOnFD or shoot me an email berryschwartz[at]gmail[.com] to let me know how my content is working (or not) for you.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

Posted in Projects

When some questions are not welcome at the Seder table

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Are there questions that, if people asked you at the seder tonight, would make YOU personally uneasy?

Consider that, in many Jewish homes tonight, while four questions will be received with open arms, many other questions won’t be such as:

1) tatty, how do we REALLY know hashem exists?

2) tatty, if hashem loves us so much and took us out of mitzrayim, why does he stop loving me if I forget to daven?

3) tatty, why do we do mitzvahs? Isn’t it possible to have a happy, fulfilled and meaningful life without them?

4) tatty, if its not possible, then aren’t we really doing the mitzvahs for ourselves so that WE get to have happy meaningful lives?

5) tatty, if torah and mitzvahs make us so special and happy and full of purpose, how come you always seem anxious and even yell at mommy and us sometimes but John next door never does?

6) tatty, if torah makes us so powerful and great and on fire, how come you never speak about your sister and haven’t spoken to her in 5 years?

7) tatty, would you love me if I didn’t keep torah?

8) tatty, you’re looking upset by all these questions. I thought all questions are welcome!

(To be clear, I’m ok with any answers to any of these questions, even the answer of don’t ask questions, as long as it is working for the person giving that answer…the only thing I’m not ok with is pretending to welcome ALL questions when that is not the case.

If this comes across as me sounding angry, resentful, or even frustrated then I have been misunderstood and apologize for not being clearer.

Nothing is wrong. It’s simply a matter of getting more effective at creating environments where our youth truly can ask any and every question without us making their asking of that question mean anything about them or us. )

Posted in Chinuch
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