This piece was written in collaboration with the fabulous Marc Dones, and posted on March 3, 2017 on JewishBoston.com.
We have this narrative. This narrative brings through many aspects of Jewish history, not just Purim. This is the narrative: They tried to kill us; we survived; let’s eat.
First of all, not all of us survived. We survived as a people—there remained such a thing as “Jews”—but not all our people made it through. In the Purim story, we had to fight back, and there was a battle.
Now, people are already not making it through. Many are claiming, “We will survive the Trump administration,” and that’s just not necessarily true…not for all of us.
Let’s examine this hope of survival. When we celebrate Purim, we spin the narrative that we survived because Esther revealed herself. Because there was someone on the inside, someone well positioned to directly influence the people in power, who was one of us, and took the risk of coming out and speaking up.
We survived because Esther revealed herself.
But what if there is no Esther?
We’re told to talk to our relatives who voted for Trump. We don’t have any relatives who voted for Trump. Do you? Are you talking to your relatives?
Are you Esther?
But Esther would talk directly to Trump.
Who is talking to Trump?
Bannon. Bannon is talking to Trump. So there’s certainly a Haman in the White House.
What if there is no Esther?
What is the false comfort we draw from the Purim narrative? That there is always someone in the inner circle who will risk their life to stop evil. That there is someone on the inside who is actually on our side.
Have you had that fantasy? That they will all retire, strike, come out…stop this?
Maybe you were looking to Clinton or Obama or Sanders or Warren or McCain or Romney to stop it cold, to not let him take power. Maybe you were looking to the Electoral College. Maybe you got excited about the rogue NASA Twitter account and the rogue White House staff account and thought maybe, maybe they will throw a wrench in it and undermine the whole operation.
There is no one on the inside who is magically going to get us out of this.
We are the ones. And if not now, when?
This is not a simple switch in mindset. This means action. This means we actually have to do something. And taking action is going to take a lot of intention and effort.
- First, it will take divesting from the Esther fantasy and investing in the leadership of women of color and queer and trans people of color who have been need financial and other resources to rock it even harder.
- Second, it will take divesting from the Esther fantasy and investing in our own capacity to take risks. The risk to speak, the risk to fight, the risk to feel. Community organizing, mass mobilizing, protest. These risks will be different and look different for white Jews and for Jews of color. Talk to people you love about what your line is, and what you’re going to do when it gets crossed. Also, it’s probably been crossed already.
- Third, it will take divesting from the Esther fantasy and not waiting for permission to fight. Know what you’re fighting for, though. Remember that when we say, “We survived,” we mean that there is still a Jewish community in existence, but “we” did not all survive. And even beyond that, when we say, “Never again,” do we mean only to Jews? It is happening…again…or still…right now…and not everyone is surviving.
And if there is no Esther, if there is no singular primary shero, we need all of us to be in it together as deeply and broadly as possible. We need to be fighting a heck of a lot harder than we are right now.