Reflections from Amira, a leader with Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, SoCal's Criminal Justice Committee:
Although I grew up in a strong conservative Jewish household, we never participated in counting the Omer — a period of spiritual reflection and personal refinement during the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. That changed this year. I’ve been inspired by the opportunity to practice mindfulness, connect to my best self, and prepare to step into the responsibility of the mitzvot (commandments) as we celebrate receiving the Torah during Shavuot.
Many in my Jewish community this year are searching for meaning in the mayhem of the coronavirus pandemic. As we hunker down with “safer at home” orders, many of us may be finding extra space and time for reflection and consideration of our core values — perhaps that is why this tradition is feeling particularly resonant this year.
This pandemic — and our administration's response to it — is laying bare the race and class based inequities in our region, state and country. I am feeling a strong recommitment to taking action in our SoCal community to build a more just world. Will you join me? RSVP here to join our next SoCal meeting via Zoom on Thursday, June 25th at 7pm.
For me, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action provides a welcome context and community in which to take action. As a leader with SoCal’s Criminal Justice Committee for nearly five years, Bend the Arc has become my Jewish home in Los Angeles. It’s easy to consider our moral minyan a congregation in its own right: we pray with our feet, hold picket signs and sign petitions, and urge our Representatives to do the right thing for our communities. At every meeting we build community, while grounding ourselves in our Jewish values. Not only does this connect us to each other but to ourselves, and reminds us why we show up in this work together as Jews.
2020 has been a challenging year. But we have SO MUCH to be proud of. Here’s a piece:
✔️ We launched We Rise as One, our new campaign to kick Trump and white nationalists out of the halls of power and build a truly inclusive multiracial democracy and economy.
Here in SoCal, we hosted a campaign launch party with over 40 people who ate delicious food together while learning about Bend the Arc and participating in political education about white supremacy, white nationalism, and antisemitism. Attendees immediately began plugging into this crucial work leading up to November’s election.
🙌 We won a historic victory for LA County with the passage of Measure R — an initiative to invest in community services rather than incarceration, while strengthening civilian oversight of the LA Sheriff's Department!
As always, we worked in tandem with amazing coalition partners: the Yes On R campaign team, Reform LA Jails, and White People 4 Black Lives, among others. After a spring filled with house parties, deep canvassing, text-banking, phone-banking, get-out-the-vote canvassing, and more, we celebrated a landslide victory in March, with over 70% of Angeleno voters voting yes!
💻 We hosted our first virtual town hall — “Activist Voices: Social Justice in the Time of COVID-19”!
Just two weeks ago over 60 Bend the Arc SoCal leaders and partners came together to connect the dots between our local work in jail, immigration, and housing reform, while sharing opportunities to act collectively towards a better society. Being forced to convene virtually has ironically created openings to connect with our extended networks, both geographic and otherwise. I loved that my cousin, who lives in the Valley and wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate, enthusiastically joined us and was inspired to take action!
🤝 We’ve stepped up during this pandemic to dive into rapid response work protecting communities under attack.
We joined the new HealthyLA coalition pushing city council to provide rent forgiveness, evictions protections, and more; we’ve worked with JusticeLA to get vulnerable people out of prisons and reduce bail to zero so no one is stuck in unsafe conditions pretrial; and we’ve continued to show up with our partners in physical-distancing friendly car actions to pressure ICE to release immigrants being held in detention. This crisis is highlighting the systemic injustices we’ve been fighting for a long time. The ways we are all connected to each other have never been so clear.
🌟 We moved our Pursuing Justice 2020 conference from Washington, DC to online.
Over 1,000 people gathered to hear from movement leaders, elected representatives, and Bend the Arc leaders and staff about the crucial work we’re involved in nationwide and to strategize together on how to use this moment to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice. Two of my fellow SoCal leaders, Emily and Matt, spoke on panels about our California criminal justice campaigns and the relationship-building with local elected officials. I couldn’t be more proud.
You can see why we’re proud of the work we’ve already accomplished in 2020. And while it might be hard to imagine right now, the election is right around the corner, and we have our work cut out for us.
We will get through this together, as a community united in the struggle for justice.