I imagine we can all name a few decisive moments in our lives around national crisis or trauma which we will never forget. We can picture exactly where we were when we heard the news, what we were doing, and what we were thinking or feeling.
We could list some that many of us have seen in our lifetimes: the assassination of President Kennedy; the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger; 9-11; And now, January 6. These last two don’t even need descriptions – just dates.
Today, this first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, feels both like it was years ago and just yesterday. Last night, I listened to a Capitol police officer speaking about his experience, and he said that January 6 hasn’t ended for him and many of his colleagues. The issues the instigated the insurrection persist, and they don’t see much change. His words as well as his voice, posture, and facial expression communicated his ongoing trauma.
We have a lot of work to do. On ourselves, as we continue to claw our way out of this pandemic, only to be shoved back down again; with our communities, struggling to find a way to live together even as we are separated by opinions, demographics, and masks; and for our nation, as we fight for the freedom and democracy that our country was founded on, and which is so precious to us as Jews.
Our current situation cries out for Hillel’s famous words: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
In commemoration of the events of January 6, 2021, on this first anniversary, I share these words written by Dr. Andrea Weiss as we gaze – always with hope – into the future.
“Every inch of America is sacred, from sea to shining sea. There is much to be done in our time, the sort of hard work on which God smiles because it is done for the sake of the dignity and well-being of all God’s creatures. Together, let us work to preserve and make manifest the values upon which our democracy was founded. The task of all people of faith is to call governing authorities to fulfill God’s purpose of bringing about justice, mercy, and peace. Individually and as a nation, may we heed our obligations to each other as we navigate the tensions of building a just society. Rather than a politics of divisiveness, may we move our country toward a politics of empathy. May we use our power well so we do great things for all God’s creatures, all those made in God’s image who yearn for an equal place at America’s table. If we do all this, may grace and peace be ours in abundance. May we be a beacon and a blessing to the world.”