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“E Pluribus Unum – From Many We Are One”

This guest blog is brought to you by Rabbi Mendel Popack.

It’s a blessing to live in the USA.  

We are different. We look different. We dress differently. We speak different languages. We worship differently. We eat different foods, have different social interests and congregate in different centers. But we are all American.

American culture has been created and enriched by the thriving diversity of ethnic cultures and minority communities that have contributed so much, each in its own way, both materially and spiritually, to American life.

More importantly, we are all human beings, endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And yet, in this blessed country, the voices of anti-Semitism, bigotry and prejudice are still present, very openly, trying to frighten and intimidate us.

Where does this prejudice come from? Does it perhaps come from a sense, held by some, that because someone is different, they are less?  Can someone be less human?  Is someone’s soul less precious because they worship differently?

It’s time to focus on what makes us all the same, not what makes us different. We are all created by the same G-d, who endowed us each with a soul. We are all brothers and sisters, and at that level, no one is better or worse.

As a spiritual leader in the Jewish community, I’ve been asked, “Rabbi, how does your local community feel about the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh?” My response is, “There is no such thing as a local Jewish community. We are one community.   One people. Those were our bubbies and zaidys, our fathers and mothers, our sisters and brothers that were murdered in cold blood, sanctifying G-d’s name, just because they were Jewish.”

Dear friends, that we are one people can also be said about the USA, and indeed about the whole world.

We are one country, one human race, one people, under one G-d.
Prejudice starts when one person, or one community, or one segment of the population is singled out and discriminated against because they are different. 

The motto “E Pluribus Unum” celebrates our differences, and we should celebrate them, too. While at the core, we cherish our commonality - that which brings us together- humanity is a tapestry of many colors, and our colors - our differences - are what makes the tapestry beautiful.

According to the Bible, when Noah and his wife Naamah, the father and mother of all mankind, exited the Ark, G-d gave them a code of civil conduct for mankind, with seven pillars: Believe in G-d, Do not curse G-d or G-d’s Name, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not commit adultery, Do not eat a limb off a living animal, and Establish a judicial system to uphold this code. A central theme of these Seven Pillars is respect for all the creations in this world, which includes respect for every other person’s life and property, because we are all created by G-d.

The Jewish community recently celebrated Chanukah. The Chanukah menorah is lit at night, when it is dark outside, and outdoors in public. The public menorah has become a universal symbol of freedom and liberty for people of all minorities and faith traditions. Like in the Chanukah story, some people try to spread darkness, hatred and bigotry. The menorah declares, in the face of darkness, that hatred and bigotry will not stop us. We will continue to shine light proudly and openly, to respond to evil and darkness by adding more light, more goodness and more kindness. A little light can push away a lot of darkness.

LIghting the Stapleton Public Menorah.jpg
Car Menorah Pic.jpg

Just as we are endowed with inalienable rights, we are given unavoidable responsibilities, responsibilities to ourselves, to each other, and to all of civilization. We must realize that our actions matter. Let us all recommit to connecting with the people that are different from us by seeking out that which makes us similar.

Add another act of goodness and kindness every day.

Reach out to your neighbor. 

Volunteer to help a struggling community.

Welcome your classmate that just immigrated from another country.

Smile at a stranger, and say hi.

You might be surprised how similar we all really are.

One Small Step, Partner Project

This guest blog is brought to you through Brave Coalition’s partnership with StoryCorp’s One Small Step project. One Small Step brings people with different political viewpoints together to record a StoryCorps interview with each other. Here is a reflection from one recent Denver participant.

 “Take a risk, do something you haven’t done before.” 

storycorps-onesmallstep

That’s how I read the invitation to participate in the Brave Coalition’s Partner project with StoryCorps, called One Small Step.  “What kind of risk?” I thought.  I tend to be selective in my willingness to take risks but I’m not entirely risk averse.  Invest in an aggressive mutual fund? Sure.  Set myself up for public humiliation? Not so much.  As I read the email invitation what started to form in my mind seemed more like the second.  “Have a conversation with a stranger, who has opposing, possibly exactly opposite political beliefs as me and have the whole thing recorded for the Library of Congress and possibly broadcast on the radio.”  Well that is certainly something I have never done before. Why risk it?  

In a conversation, I thought, as opposed to a social media post there is the opportunity to listen; to hear and be heard as a human being rather than a segment or a nameless faceless enemy.  I am of the opinion that there is a lot of ranting and very little listening happening in our current political environment.  When I am engaged in a face to face conversation, I can’t escape the glaring reality that there is another person looking and listening to me. So, Yes, I can take a small step and be willing to listen to someone else share where her beliefs came from and what influenced her views.

I was a little surprised to notice how much I enjoyed having someone listen to the origin and evolution of my own views. We talked for 45 minutes and apart from the baseball sized black foam microphones in front of us it was a fairly ordinary conversation. The major exception was that, on our own, we would have never had such a conversation. I got to see and share how in a number of instances we want the same results in our community we just have differing views on how to bring about those results.  In the end neither of us changed our views, and to be clear that isn’t the objective of the One Small Step project, but we did have the opportunity to see that as people we have a lot in common, likely more in common than opposing.  

Without talking I would have been left with just my point of view.  The view that there is no common ground between the Left and the Right and the distance is spreading between people. That’s how I feel when I spend any time reading Facebook and Twitter posts. However, having the opportunity to speak with, listen to and be heard by another person leaves me with some hope that what looks like a chasm of political ideology could just possibly be crossed by people willing to take just one small step. 

By: Aaron Schettler

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The Alphabet Rockers

By: Bella Kolfenbach, 4th grade

Last Thursday, the Alphabet Rockers came to my school to give an assembly. When someone comes to our school to do an assembly, I usually have a favorite part, but when the Alphabet Rockers came,  I did not have a favorite part because I thought everything about them was amazing. They want to show the world their shine. What I think is cool about them is they want people to be who they are and who they want to be. They traveled all the way from California just to tell people that they are amazing and that you are amazing. They talked about how you CAN BE DIFFERENT IN MANY WAYS BUT YOU NEED TO BE PROUD, EVEN IF YOU ARE DIFFERENT.

AlphabetRockers-About.jpg

 

During the assembly, they told us their stories. This showed us how they shine. Kaitlin’s story is that when she was little she loved music. So one time she went to a talent show and most of the people who were performing were boys. But she still went up there and showed what she could do. And then she met her friend, Tommy. Tommy told a  story of how when he was younger, he was judged by his skin color. He had to learn to stand up for himself. He also had good friends, like Kaitlin, that would stand up for him if someone said something mean.

One of my favorite songs they did was called “Shine”. I liked this song because it talked about how even though we are all different, we all shine and should show our shine. My favorite thing it says in the song is ‘(I’m) not just a star, i’m-a i’m-a galaxy’. I think this means that you are not just a little thing in the sky, you can shine and be as big as a galaxy and be as big as anyone else, no matter what you look like. This REMINDS ME OF A MOVIE called “Wonder”. There is this part where the sister says, ‘you can’t blend in when you are born to stand out’. We may all be different, but we are each meant to shine!

When the Alphabet Rockers came to my school, I learned many things. I LEARNED THAT YOU NEED TO STAND UP FOR OTHER PEOPLE AND BE KIND TO PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT. I learned is that it’s OK for PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT to STAND OUT. I learned that sometimes people see people who are different as something ugly or scary, just because they are different. I learned this happens more often to black people. What made me cry, and trust me it is really hard to make me cry, is that black people or people who are different are not getting treated as well as white people.  I kind of knew this before, but it made me want to try harder to change how people treat each other.

The Alphabet Rockers are teaching kids that we are each as big as a galaxy, not just a star. And also that you are not just a star, you are a galaxy. You are amazing and can shine in a fun and encouraging way. I want to be just like the Alphabet Rockers and teach kids that they are important and beautiful, and do it in a fun way. One of my favorite moves that they did was called the ‘meatball and spaghetti’. The ‘meatball and spaghetti’ is where you crunch up into a ball and then slowly lift up your arms and rattle them. It looks like this:

 

The Alphabet Rockers are cool, fun, funny, awesome, loving, brave, kind, and helpful. And that is all I have to say about the Alphabet Rockers. You should see them some time.

About the Author:

Bella Kolfenbach is a 4th grader at Isabella Bird Community School in Denver, CO. She is a big sister to two brothers, a slime expert, stitch-lover, and good friend. Her dream is to convince others that all people should be treated equally.

#bebrave #wearebrave