Elul 11 5776
Dear Ms. #117,
I’m sorry - but I don’t know your name. You are one of 218 schoolgirls kidnapped 883 days ago by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and one of more than 200 still in captivity. I’ve been told that keeping your name private may be helpful to your safety and eventual release.
My friend and colleague Naomi has been an inspiring advocate on your behalf and a leader of #bringbackourgirls.
She’s been wearing a necklace with the number 117 for many months now, committed, along with other fierce activists worldwide to work for your freedom and remind the world - all of us - of our commitment to your safety and to justice.
I’ve joined her in protest and prayer on several occasions, seen your number around her neck for so many of these past days that signify your cruel and unjust bondage and yet have done so little to to advance your release and honor your dignity.
It didn’t become my priority.
I’m sorry about that and I want to let you know why.
Global citizenship offers me, among privileged westerners, so many opportunities for connection and so many ways, perhaps too many ways, to witness and support the lives and needs of others. The gaps between the virtual community and the local reality challenge us with scopes and numbers that our human brains have are not yet capable of mastery, though our hearts seem to be capable of so much more love. How to prioritize where one puts one’s energy, love, resources, voice when the very notions of tribe and loyalties are no longer so simple?
‘The poor of your town come first,” advised a Jewish sage in the Talmud, some 1,500 years ago. That advise still makes sense as still, we take care of our own and whats in sight and mind, but what tribe and town mean for us these days is changing fast. Like many, I too am trying to define my towns, their needs, where and how to matter. When to say yes, when not. This past year I have made some choices of where and how and if and when to get beyond my selfish needs for others.
On this day, the 11th of my annual journey to more honest and helpful living, I take responsibility for not doing enough for you and your sisters, and for so many others, despite my good intentions.
I will not presume to ask you to forgive me and yet I hope that if you read this one day you will understand. I take upon myself the commitment to deeply reflect on my duties to the world, my privileged paying it forward, and what I can do this coming year, through passionate, practical and honest set of priorities to be an advocate and helpful champion to others - near or far, as best as I can within my honest limits. I invite and will continue to invite others to do the same.
And on this day, I stand for you, with prayer and hopes, to help, in some small way, and bring awareness as part of the growing chorus of prayers and protest on your behalf.
Today, 9/14, the United Nations General Assembly commences in New York. World leaders, including Nigeria’s President M. Buhari, will be in New York to discuss various issues plaguing our world.
Leaders of faith and activists are calling on us in New York to stand in solidarity with 218 #ChibokGirls and thousands more still in Boko Haram captivity.
Today at 3pm, many will gather, all wearing red, to deliver a letter to President Buhari at the Nigerian Embassy in New York to remind him of his campaign promise to #BringBackOurGirls. I will try to be there. We’ll keep on doing what we can.
The Nigerian Embassy is at 828 Second Avenue (2nd and 44th)
I hope one day to know your name, and stand with you for freedom, dignity, hope and justice for all. I hope you will be safe, be blessed with healing, go free, and come home. As soon as possible. May the Source of Life and Peace be with you and with us all.
In solidarity and Love,
PREPENT: Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s annual journey to the new year, with 40 ways in 40 days to reflect, refocus, recharge and restart life. This year features daily love letters inspired by Lab/Shul’s theme for the High Holy Days, “וְאָהַבְתָּ re:love.”