Healing justice is “a framework that identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.” – Cara Page, “Reflections from Detroit: Transforming Wellness and Wholeness
Becoming a grown up Jew with my own practice, learning and getting activated about systems of oppression, and learning about healing justice, primarily from women of color, all happened for me at same time, and deeply affected one another. I started marking shabbat every week, for the first time since my Bat Mitzvah in 2009. I was beginning to try to take meaningful action as a white person to challenge white supremacy, as a class privileged person coming to terms with my responsibility to redistribute wealth, and as a person deeply invested in justice in Palestine. And, I kept being reminded, I, too, have culture, history, traditions, and ancestors. Healing justice offered that there was no glory or progress in ignoring this, but that there could be healing and liberatory futures in turning towards it, living into it.
I was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota at that time, and there were limited options for exploring these new understandings and commitments. I explored different synagogues and a feminist chant circle, and taught myself how to bake challah (with extreme burning and tears the first time). And, I had a Jewish calendar. I don’t know where I picked it up, but I would study it like a book. I downloaded a Jewish calendar via Hebcal.com into my Google calendar. So did one of my non-Jewish housemates who wanted to support me and my exploration (tip of the hat to Katie Spencer for being the first and only person to ever wish me a good Tzom Gedalia).
Having a Jewish calendar put me in relationship to Jewish people and Judaism across time and place. At a time when I was also coming to learn all of the parts of Judaism and Jewish history that I hadn’t learned in Hebrew School, a Jewish calendar let me live into Jewishness without reading a textbook, but by starting to align myself with the cycles of Jewish time. I read, and reread, “The Historian as Curandera” from Aurora Levins Morales book Medicine Stories, where she teaches:
The role of a socially committed historian is to use history, not so much to document the past as to restore to the dehistoricized a sense of identity and possibility. Such ‘medicinal’ histories seek to re-establish the connections between peoples and their histories, to reveal the mechanisms of power, the steps by which their current condition of oppression was achieved through a series of decisions made by real people to dispossess them; but also to reveal the multiplicity, creativity and persistence of resistance among the oppressed…History is the story we tell ourselves about how the past explains the present, and how the ways in which we tell it are shaped by contemporary needs. (1)
Learning people’s histories, uncovering the voices of ancestors and exploring the nuance and complexities of their lives, finding the medicine stories, discovering and creating ways to bring this medicine to Jewish people to absorb, challenge, engage with, and grow through: this became my life’s work, and eventually led me to rabbinical school.
I knew from my own experience that living in Jewish time, and having tools to live in Jewish time, is a powerful and accessible way of bringing medicine histories into people’s lives and homes. I started dreaming of a calendar of our own, a way to live in Jewish time that is aligned with and even uplifts the kind of Judaism I and my communities want to build.
In 5777 this calendar dream became a reality, through the work of countless hearts and hands. This year, I’ve been so blessed to work on this project with passionate and brilliant creative forces, Elissa Martell and Ariana Katz. Through the process of making this calendar, we’ve gotten to dig into hard political questions, with care for each other and a critical love of Judaism and Jewishness. We are committed to, “celebrating Jewish culture that is intersectional, queer, feminist, anti-racist, and that challenges and builds a Judaism and Jewishness beyond Zionism.”
Making and using this calendar is part of our work of resistance. Elissa says, “Being in Jewish time reminds me that creating space for rest, self-care, joy, loss, being present and reflection is central to the cycle of our lives and our weeks, that rest supports, and is not in contradiction to, our resistance work.” And Ariana says living in Jewish time, counting time by lunar months and with days of no buying or making, helps us “resist Christian hegemony and capitalism,” and connect “with others in life far away in history or space, through shared time and cycles, and to the seasons and earth.”
We make this calendar as an offering, hopeful that people find many ways to live into the seasons of the earth and the diverse histories of our people, and that it strengthens our hearts and hands for the work of not only resisting but also creatively building in ways that remember our past, live awake in the present, and dream new futures.
- Aurora Levins Morales, “The Historian as Curandera” Medicine Stories: History, Culture and the Politics of Integrity, 24.