During Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), many people put this famous poem on their Facebook page: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
This poem made me think about the work I do on college campuses. During April, while traveling to Texas and California, I was a part of two Passover seders, which brought together different groups from the community. At each seder, I heard students talk about the Passover themes of exile and oppression.
At University of California, Santa Barbara, Jewish students organized an LGBT potluck seder, which brought together 40 members of the greater LGBT community. We sat around the table reading through the Stonewall haggadah, which is an LGBT Pride seder that celebrates both Jews and Queers alike. The most unique part about the seder was the inclusion of an orange on the seder plate, representing something that isn’t supposed to be there, but is. It is a progressive way to look at the traditional seder, to reinforce the idea of inclusion of everyone.
At University of Texas, Austin, more than 100 students from Jewish and Latino communities joined to bring their cultures together. The Jewish Latino seder had salsa and haroset sitting next to each other on the table, as an almost poetic touch to the evening. There was even a mariachi band that accompanied the reading of the haggadah. During the seder, Latino students, many of whom were undocumented, told stories about how their families came to America and the struggles they faced. One of the students said something that really stuck with me: “You cannot be illegal by being born.” This student reminded me that most of us are still fighting battles of oppression from those who came before us. We cannot control the hand we were dealt; all we can do is make the best out of the situation and stand up for what is right.
I was moved at how both seders really brought communities together by giving Jewish students and minorities the ability to tell their story. It is important to remember that building is a two way street. We cannot expect other students to listen to our story and support Israel if we are unwilling to listen to their stories and, if our conscience dictates, support their causes.
Everyone has something they are fighting for. It is important that we speak up for each other, so the poem of our generation reflects something different!