Opening our Hearts and Minds
Thoughts from Executive Director Zach Lasker
Three months ago, I was knocking on doors in LA suburbs to engage Angelinos in personal conversations around jailing. I felt a responsibility to leverage my privilege as a white male Jew to combat the injustices around criminalization that plague our country. My hope while canvassing was to open hearts and minds to the vital need that we explore alternatives to incarceration (health services, job training, etc.) as a more enduring, human-centered solution. Victory came on March 3rd when over 70% of voters passed a ballot measure to reform our county jails.
One step forward, too many steps back. COVID and recent police killings reveal deep rooted racial injustices; kids in low-income neighborhoods struggle to access education, illness afflicts communities of color at higher rates, unemployment is disproportionately afflicting minority workers, and certain police officers continue to unjustly target Black lives.
“At a time when the community is suffering, no one should say, “I will go home, eat, drink, and be at peace with myself.” -Talmud Taanit, 11a
Judaism is a religion of action more than speech. We have an obligation to be change agents in our society. In Pirkei Avot we read: Al tis-ta-kel ba-kankan e-lah be-mah she-yesh bo – Don’t look at the jug but rather look at what’s inside” (Pirkei Avot 4:20). Let’s lead with curiosity and respect. Let’s honor the unique spark each individual embodies, recognizing that diversity of color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and ability add rich texture to the world.
I am filled with humility, hope, and joy by the invitation to join Open Temple as its first Executive Director. The opportunity to partner with Rabbi Lori, the board, our co-creators, and collaborators to look inside the jug of Judaism and humanity, to re-enchant, and to create space for diverse individuals to travel their soul journey hand-in-hand could not be more timely. I hope to get to know the faces of Open Temple by Zoom and soon over tea or on a walk.
But in the words of Hillel “Eem lo achsav, eimatai?” Let’s confront racial injustice now. Open Temple wants you to stay safe at home and we’ve completely redesigned our June calendar to exclusively navigate the plagues of illness and injustice. Join me at offerings such as:
June 11: Racial Justice Phone Bank
Dismantle white supremacy from your home
June 12: The Blessing of Children
Rabbi Lori will bless future change makers, model anti-racist storytelling, and lead us in Shema
June 13: Shabbat Shal(OM)
Meet me in our virtual yoga studio to cultivate inner light and the energy to be an outward-facing Warrior
Check our website for resources on how to talk with kids about racial justice
With Spirit and Peace,
Zach Lasker, Executive Director