The Hope of How

“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 How? A pastor and worshipers slain, heads bowed, in the sanctuary How? A mother sits in the street where her son’s soul was poured out How? A world turns its back again, again, again - there is none to comfort her How? A people shown their Black bodies, tears, families do not matter How? 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 How? A mother refuses to back down, power yields to her demands How? A wave of clergy rise up to meet resounding call for a different world How? A movement plants seeds everywhere, sprouts flowers over burial ground How? A black man’s cry, “I can’t breathe” amplified in the streets for all to hear How? 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, Amen