NiSh’ma: Hineni

NiSh’ma — let us hear — is our simulated Talmud page. Here, we offer three takes on Hineni— Here I am —how to be fully present in relation to self and others.

Artwork by Jana Life
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Hineni prayer from the High Holiday liturgy

“Here I stand, impoverished in merit, trembling in the presence of the One who hears the prayers of Israel. Even though I am unfit and unworthy for the task, I come to represent Your people Israel.”

NiSh’ma: Hineni

Mike RothbaumBy Mike Rothbaum:

Mike Rothbaum: Since news of the violence in Ferguson, Missouri exploded into American consciousness last year, I have focused much of my public rabbinic work on racial justice.

While most advocates working in the interfaith justice movement honor differences and diversity, not all do. Unfortunately, I have been on the receiving end of Jew-hatred — even in “progressive” spaces. Earlier this year, at a small interfaith meeting of anti-racism activists in a progressive Oakland church, a conversation about racism morphed into a conversation about Israel/Palestine. It ended with an African-American pastor labeling me an “infiltrator for right-wing Judaism.”

Stunned and furious, my heart said, “leave,” but I decided to stay. I explained that such accusations hint of classic anti-Jewish behavior. Historically, I continued, these words were used to commit violence against Jews. The conversation was hard but, after honest reflection and dialogue, healing. I accepted the pastor’s apology.

“Hineni. Here I am, impoverished in merit.” I stand ready to challenge a culture that values white lives more than black lives. I stand representing the people Israel, even in moments of alienation or discomfort. Making ultimatums, walking away from racial justice work because it doesn’t happen on my terms, is simply not an option. I have no choice but to continue working for what I perceive to be right, even if I’m not always sure the path ahead. My Torah and my God demand nothing less — even if I stand nothing to gain from it, especially if I stand nothing to gain from it.

Here I am. I am not going away. I am in this struggle, where a Jew belongs.

NiSh’ma: Hineni

Simone ZimmermanBy Simone Zimmerman:

**Simone Zimmerman: ** Hineni. Here I stand. Like Moshe, I have trembling lips, and sometimes I stutter. I have experienced the slander, the attacks. I see my elders digging in their heels, clinging to the old order. Yet I also hear the voices of risk takers and rabble-rousers who have challenged and moved our people for millennia, breathtaking in their wisdom, creativity, and resilience. I am reminded that change is necessary and possible. I see the fire of the burning bush, I hear the call to leadership. I am reminded that these moments demand courage.

Hineni. Here I stand on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land — 50 years of denying Palestinian people their rights, freedom, humanity. A daily nightmare committed in our names, by our hands.

Hineni. Here I stand, carrying the stories and the pain of my ancestors with me. I learned that because we suffered, we should never let anyone else suffer. But I see that because we suffered, we can’t bear to look at the pain we are causing to others. I know that looking in the mirror may cause heartbreak, but indifference and inaction are not an option. Indeed, as Yavilah McCoy asserts, our souls are at stake if we fail to join the fight to eliminate racism at home. So too, must we recognize the calls for justice in all the places our people call home.

Hineni. Here I stand, trembling but rooted in my commitment to my Jewish people. Some may say young people like me are unwelcome here. I know we are right where we belong, ready to lead with hope and love and ready to fight for a better world.

NiSh’ma: Hineni

Yavilah McCoyBy Yavilah McCoy:

Yavilah McCoy: Here I stand with my people Israel — a multiracial community — reaching for racial justice. A matter of survival for my loved ones and myself, I feel no choice but to respond to the need for greater racial equity in our nation and world. Here I stand, among dear sisters, brothers, family, and tribe. Here I stand — black, woman, Jew, and humble servant. Here I stand, testifying that I have heard thunder rolling across our nation in these times. Thunder in the form of unarmed black and brown people being shot dead in their homes and in the streets by armed policemen and vigilantes. Thunder in the form of people of color making up only 30 percent of the American population, yet accounting for 60 percent of those who are imprisoned. Thunder in the form of recent legislative attacks on the rights and freedoms of the most vulnerable among us in education, voting rights, and immigration, and the rights of transgender people and communities. Thunder in the form of deadly violence being wrought upon our communities by the disconnected and the disenfranchised. Thunder as the sound of myriad human hearts crying out for healing, repair, and resolution.

Here I stand in awe of the hope, courage, and strength granted to Jews of color to both survive racism and feel whole and centered enough to service our people and nation in working to end it. Here I stand, trembling in the presence of the One who hears the prayers of Israel. Here I stand, praying before the One who has taught our people to love truth, justice, and compassion. Here I stand, knowing that in our caring and in our indifference, our souls are at stake. Here I stand, listening to rolling thunder and offering a supplication for the dedication and rededication of our hearts, minds, and hands to the work of eliminating racism in our lifetime.

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