July has been a hard month. Elie Weisel passed away. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were senselessly shot and killed by policemen. Women wearing tallit, kippot, and tefilin while praying with the Torah were shouted down and called “Amalek” by fellow Jews at the Kotel. Eight police officers, five in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Montrell Jackson, Brad Garafola and Matthew Gerald, brutally lost their lives at the hands of snipers. My sorrow, fear, and outrage all stem from the same source: radical othering.
I sat in a bit of a daze in a small, packed church in Cheraw, South Carolina on the evening of August 27, 2015. Full from a dinner prepared lovingly by volunteers in a local community center, comfortable in the air-conditioning, I struggled to keep my eyes open for this NAACP Mass Meeting. After a few brief welcomes, the small choir began: