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thinking about a justice-focused papercut

October 3, 2018 | Filed in:

Since David Harris commissioned me to make a new papercut focused on contemporary issues, I’ve been thinking about what I might want to focus on, but it really didn’t take long for me to narrow it down somewhat.

Over the past few years, I’ve been listening to a lot and reading a lot about the criminal justice system and have been becoming (belatedly, some could reasonably argue) increasingly angered by the injustice, racism and white supremacy upon which it all functions. All white people should feel a sense of obligation to improve this system; its not simply deeply flawed, but is actually constructed out of white supremacist bricks. (White Fragility) Jews of a particular responsibility to call out and fight these injustices. Particularly because not only have we been there and experienced this same thing at so many times over the centuries, but also our tradition tells us that it’s our responsibility.

I plan to start out by looking for texts that express this call to arms strongly and that tie these experiences to our own in the past and in text, so that people can’t make the excuse that it’s happening to other people who are unlike us, who don’t deserve our attention. Are we not obligated to protect and care for the stranger, because we were strangers in Egypt? Also we have experienced this same prejudice, racism, and injustice in this very country.

Noam pointed out a text to me, a yiddish tehineh, a women’s personal prayer book, with a prayer explicitly about freeing people from imprisonment, and it names Joseph, flung into the pit by his brothers. I have never used Yiddish in a papercut before, and I like the idea of doing so.