Culture, Identity, Religion

Festival of Freedom

Jeeze, a guy gets busy for a few weeks and you turn this site into all Israel, all the time! (Okay, all Israel plus Kyrgyzstan and a touch of Talmud.)
Anyway, while I’ve been gone, I’ve been busy. I mentioned that I graduated from Hebrew College. I was incredibly honored to be asked to speak at graduation, so I naturally took the opportunity to get on my soap box and told the older folks in the room “Don’t Tell Me I’m Next.” Ironically, despite giving a speech against always asking “what’s next,” I was getting ready to embark on my own next adventure: becoming editor of Having been liberated from eight years of (part-time) academia and (full-time) employment as a Jewish educator, I started my new job the following day. And now, here I am, blogging at you from the former chapel of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in downtown Boston. (Seriously, they ripped out the aron kodesh to make me an office. I’ll leave it to the rest of you to interpret that how you will.)
So now that I’m something of a professional blogger, I will probably be spending less time around these here parts except for the occasional cross-post or when the mood takes me to write something that doesn’t fit at my primary residence on the web.
But today I did want to share one of those cross-posts, because this weekend we have a big holiday coming up, and I don’t mean Father’s Day.

JuneteenthJune 19th is celebrated across the United States and around the world as Juneteenth, the anniversary of African-American emancipation in this country. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in September and went into effect in January, many slaveholders in the south simply ignored it. The date of Juneteenth commemorates the June 18th and 19th taking of the state of Texas by the Union army under General Gordon Granger, who publicly announced the end of slavery, inspiring public celebrations among the newly freed slaves. Three years ago, Massachusetts became the 25th state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday; 11 more have since followed suit.
I had never really contemplated Juneteenth from a Jewish perspective before this year. A few months ago, my friend Ingrid phoned me excitedly from her home in LA. “Juneteenth falls on Shabbat this year,” she told me, “so I’m going to host a Jewnteenth seder!” As someone who is both Jewish and African-American, Ingrid was thrilled to carve some space into the calendar that spoke to both elements of her identity. Modeling her Shabbat dinner after the Passover seder seemed natural, since both Passover and Juneteenth celebrate freedom from slavery.
As she spread the word among her friends, she found that many had never heard of Juneteenth before, never mind Jewnteenth. Ingrid insisted to me that was because Juneteenth celebrations are more common on the east coast, although the Juneteenth World Wide Celebration web site lists a dozen events in California and only two in Massachusetts. My searches on Google and Twitter today have not uncovered any Boston-area Jewnteenth events at all.
So whether you’re part of an organized celebration or not, this weekend is a great opportunity to reflect on the freedoms we share as well as the work still left to do to ensure equal rights for all. And if you’re not already familiar with the racial diversity within the Jewish community, you can check out the work done by such organizations as The Jewish Multiracial Network and Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue).

5 thoughts on “Festival of Freedom

  1. Too bad you missed the Juneteenth Festival out here in Berkeley, California. Many Yidn were present, but they remain off the radar.

  2. To me, as a Texan, it’s wierd to think of people outside of Texas celebrating Juneteenth, as I’ve always thought of it as a Texan holiday. My parents had never heard of Juneteenth until they transplanted to Texas.

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