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Trust Among Jews of Every Color

Laurence Mordekhai Thomas

Trust is one of the greatest gifts that human beings can give to one another. When two people trust one another, there is a peace and tranquility between them that has no equal among human relations. People who trust one another are always concerned to do two things. One is to prove that they are trust worthy. The other is to prove that they will never abuse the trust bestowed upon them. People who trust one another would rather suffer a loss than betray the trust of another. As these remarks should make abundantly clear : Trust between any two people is possible only if both are independently and equally motivated to be righteous individuals. I shall in due course use the Twelve Tribes of Israel to underwrite the central argument of this essay.
From the outset, we are trustworthy only if we seek to understand the concerns of the other rather than merely to impose our own view upon the other. It is this feature about trust that makes mutual trust between two people a most profound learning experience. Whatever else is true, trust at its best is not at all about turning the other into a copy of oneself. 
We who are Jews and we who are Black must learn to better trust one another. Jews and Jews ; Blacks and Blacks ; and, to be sure, Jews and Blacks. There is no one way to be Jewish. There is no one way to be Black. There is no one way to be both Jewish and Black. To be sure, people can be traitors. However, what we absolutely must remember is that differences alone do not suffice to render anyone a traitor. This is because differences as such merely speak to the richness of our humanity.
Here are two very simple but vivid illustrations of this : The Black experience in France is not identical to the Black experience in the United States ; although, to be sure, there is certainly overlap between the two. It would be wrong to privilege the experiences of one group over the experiences of the other. Similarly, Ashkenazie Jews and Sephardic Jews have interesting differences between them, although it is obvious that there is also enormous overlap between them. Again, it would be a fundamental mistake to privilege the experiences of one group over the experiences of the other. In either case, there is no superiority of one group over the other. What we have instead is a marvelous illustration of the ways in which human beings can enrich their lives. 
Hashem never denied the reality of differences among human beings—not even among Jews. After all, there were (are) Twelve Tribes. If there were to be no differences of any kind among Jews, then One Tribe would have been more than sufficient.—and Twelve Tribe would have been impediment to the flourishing of the Jewish people. Clearly, Hashem did not think that. 
No one can do everything. All of us can do something. And collectively, we do more than anyone of us would be able to do. So it is provided that our fundamental aim is to live to the glory of Hashem. Béni soit son nom. 
It is an unfortunate reality that owing to the differences in the ways in which skin color and other physical features have been valorized in society, we who are Jewish and we who are Black do not all have the same experiences. None of us created this reality. However, it is a reality with which all of us have to live. 
We have all had to cope in different ways with the vast differences in society regarding valorization of various physical features. Judaism at its best does not deny this reality. Rather, it recognizes this reality and then affords its fellow Jewish travelers the means to be strong in spite of the burdens imposed by society.
Black Jews committed to a strong and spiritual Judaism do not constitute a threat to Judaism. Quite the contrary, they constitute a profound affirmation of the ability of Judaism to provide support and affirmation to fellow Jews in an unjust world.
For human beings, nothing makes the difference like experience. No matter how many people might say an American can speak French, nothing makes the difference to people in France like actually hearing that American speak French. So it is with just about everything else.
No matter how much we talk about equality in Judaism, nothing makes the difference for Jews of every color like seeing Jews of very color embrace Judaism with depth and commitment to the fundamental principles of Judaism. So it is in a world in which we have made so much of differences in physical features. 
The mere fact that some would suppose that a synagogue whose members are primarily black would be a “ghetto” synagogue speaks profoundly to this point. For another and very real possibility is that a synagogue whose members are primarily black might very well address, from time to time, the ways in which the Torah speaks to the daily concerns of blacks in a world that continues to make so much of physical differences. And this, of course, would be a way of majestically showing casing what we already know, namely that the worlds of Hashem are applicable to every aspect of life for every group of individuals upon the face of the earth. In a world in which Jews of very color trust one another the glory will be Hashem’s Béni soit son nom.

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