It has been a long time, friends. Some of us have never met in person, only by Zoom. We thought we would see each other in person this spring, but … Omicron. So, for October 19-23, 2022, WRJ decided to embark on an adventure a little closer to home. It would have to be one filled with learning and introspection, inspiration, and exhilaration. Like everything WRJ does, it should incorporate sisterhood, spirituality, and social justice. And music. A lot of music.
Thus, the WRJ 2022 Civil Rights Journey was born. For some of us, going anyplace together is the driving force – the camaraderie, the joy of being and experiencing together has been missing in our lives. Others are most looking forward to a chance to dive more deeply into the civil rights history of the United States. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously likened marching in Selma, Alabama, to praying with his feet. We all want to learn with our feet, our hearts, and our prayers by taking this journey together.
When our WRJ President, Sara Charney, asked us not just to attend but to co-chair the Civil Rights Journey, we were excited and trepidatious. As we planned, we realized that is how everyone is feeling – excited and trepidatious.
Like you, we come to this journey with our unique interests, experiences, and expectations. The team is working hard to create a special journey that will mark our return to being together. We hope you will join us.
When Sara Charney first asked me to co-chair the WRJ Civil Rights Journey, excited and trepidatious was exactly how I felt. Plan a trip? Yes. I enjoyed the last two WRJ trips to Israel, plus I love to plan vacations. See the landmarks of the Civil Rights movement and learn everything about them? You bet. I am a huge admirer of Bryan Stephenson (founder of the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, which we’ll be visiting) since he spoke at my daughter’s college graduation, and I will never forget his exhortation to “be proximate.”
I could not pass up the opportunity to learn and explore the connection between Judaism and the civil rights movement and the issues around voting rights and voter suppression in Georgia and across the nation.
The staff already had the itinerary and travel company well in hand, so as co-chairs, Shoshana and I would be called upon to plan the extras—dinners, early arrival activity, Shabbat, Saturday night. That’s where the trepidations came into play for me – trying to figure out what would appeal to WRJ women of all stripes and fit within a budget.
So far, it has been a heartwarming and worthwhile experience—Confab with my fabulous co-chair and awesome staff partners; computer research and consultation with local WRJ members— leading to the conclusion that yes, I can do this. And even though neither Shoshana nor I should ever be heard leading a song, we can still create the environment in which WRJ can sing together. WRJ may push me out of my comfort zone, but never too far.
Everything is coming together, and registration will be opening soon. Shoshana and I are so excited to be sharing this adventure with you.
Unlike Deb, I have not been on a WRJ trip before. But, as Advocacy Vice President, I could see the synergies with my everyday WRJ work – so I jumped on board, trusting that the staff, Deb, and I would make a good team. During our planning, we felt pain as the voting rights reform did not pass at the federal level, and we were very aware that both the United States and Canada have spent time during the past two unusual years reckoning with difficult parts of our histories. We also felt joy: Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed as our most recent Supreme Court Justice, and President Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act – after more than 200 failed attempts to criminalize lynching as a federal hate crime. Pain and joy will be part of this journey.
Like many of you, I marched where I was for the Women's March on January 21, 2017. In my case, with the community of Greensboro, North Carolina. I was caught off guard when we turned a corner. I found myself next to a sculpture honoring the Greensboro Four, who sat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter right there in downtown Greensboro and started a movement. “I have a dream that one day … the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” That is where I cried that day – as the multicultural, mixed-gender force of people around me surged past the still sculpture. I felt them watching me as if to ask: how will you keep helping?
The next year, at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights, I sat at the lunch counter sit-in exhibit. I closed my eyes and listened to storms of vitriol being thrown at me as if I were a courageous person as if I had the strength to fight without violence for recognition of my humanity. Ninety horrible seconds that you can experience on this small clip reverberate in my bones. I still have far to go on my journey toward understanding.
Our Journey Together:
Listening to the confirmation hearings, there is no doubt that racism and misogyny still run deep. Our WRJ Civil Rights Journey will take us to the intersection of women’s rights, human rights, and civil rights. Each day of the journey, we will ask ourselves and each other, “From what we have learned today, how are we inspired to take action?”
When we put our feet on the ground together this October in Atlanta, Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham, we will be taking the next steps of our journey. We will experience, learn, and be inspired more deeply because we will be there with WRJ and with each other.
We can’t wait to share this journey with you!
Click here to learn more about the journey and join us.