I’ve lived in Philadelphia, PA, Tucson, AZ, and Gastonia, NC, and the one commonality all three of these places shared was that they were urban. I couldn’t live out in the country, I couldn’t live in the suburbs, I grew up urban, I like to live in urban settings. Sure some were more wooded, some more desert, but all of them were cities, all of them had the hustle and bustle of people.
Life is harder in urban settings, mainly because you have so many people so close together, each with their own thoughts, beliefs, and aspirations… as well as attitudes. Since starting my journey into Judaism and what it means to be a Jew, I’ve taken notice of a lot of things I simply overlooked in the past. This has led me to find both good and bad conclusions, even at the start of this journey into my heritage.
My first observation, the Jewish communities in my city (Philadelphia) are very kind and welcoming, even to those who (like myself) find out I’m Jewish much later in life and who has a checkered past. My second observation, large swaths of other minorities distrust Jewish people and in some cases, such as with the nation of Islam and Black Hebrew Israelites, are wholly antisemitic. I personally cannot explain the antisemitism within the melting pot that is urban America, by other ethnic minorities.
Not only do Jewish people need to worry about the white racists, neo-nazis, and Ku Klux Klan, but we also face the same from some African-Americans as well. This is very challenging and disheartening, to say the least, but something that cultural education can help defeat over time. This is a goal of mine, to unite people from all walks, to dissolve ignorance of one another, and to see people recognize the humanity in one another.
If you live in nearly any city in America, you will find cracks in the concrete, oftentimes you’ll see some sort of plant or flower growing from it… this is a metaphor I adamantly believe in. Though it is tough and requires a lot of work, we all can grow together, strengthen our communities, we need to be the change we want to see in the world… change thus begins with you and me. I can see us all, white, black, yellow, brown, Jew and Gentile, doing our part to change and growing like flowers through our concrete jungles.
The flower will only grow by breaking through the concrete first, so must we break through preconceived notions, stereotypes, trepidation, and ignorance. We can do this, we all can change for the better, for a better world, for a better place for all of our children and our grandchildren. I know it’s possible, I can see it, feel it in the very depths of my soul… it is possible.
We all can end the cycle of hate, but it must begin at home, we must end these things within ourselves and in our teaching our children. There can be abundance, there can be love, there can be caring for one another, but first, we must all let go of what is not true, what does not serve the greater good of everyone. The work we do today will be as seeds, growing the flowers of tomorrow…