“The Hope of How,” A prayer for Tisha B’Av

By Yehudah Webster and Zahara Zahav, members and leaders at JFREJ and graduates of the Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship.

“How?” (“Eicha?”) wonders the narrator of Lamentations which is read by Jews on Tisha B’Av, a day commemorating the horrifying destruction of the First and Second Temples.

This prayer weaves images and themes from the last year’s spate of racist violence with those of Tisha B’Av, hoping to draw strength from the knowledge that we have faced senseless hatred before, and new choices are now available to us for how to respond.

This is the definition of teshuva, repentance (literally “return”), that Tisha B’Av calls to us to do as we prepare for the High Holy Days.

“My insides are churning”

A most sacred home in flames deemed worthless, disposable


A pastor and worshipers slain, heads bowed, in the sanctuary


A mother sits in the street where her son’s soul was poured out


A world turns its back again, again, again - there is none to comfort her


A people shown their Black bodies, tears, families do not matter


How have we fallen to such disgrace?

How long will we slink away from justice?

How do we allow?

How do we hope?

How do we dance when so heavy with grief?

How do we turn to face each other?

A woman climbs where no one dared, tears down a flag of hatred


A mother refuses to back down, power yields to her demands


A wave of clergy rise up to meet resounding call for a different world


A movement plants seeds everywhere, sprouts flowers over burial ground


A black man’s cry, “I can’t breathe” amplified in the streets for all to hear


With this hope we pray that we do not reach the point of total destruction

We pray that we desist from senseless hatred and brutality

That sacred places remain holy, unstained from the blood of racism

That we do not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, taking instead honest account of our obligations

We pray that community, allyship and love forge new bridges of understanding and trust

That we continue to hope and believe in each other

Demanding as one that black lives truly do matter

All these things we pray in solidarity together

And let us say,