This month, our family delighted in our Independence Day tradition – attending the annual Huntington Woods 4th of July Parade. As we sat on the grass, surrounded by friends, my daughter excitedly awaited the tossed candy she would stockpile. Holding her in my arms, I examined my daughter’s beautiful curls and admired her multiculturalism. Her stunning hodge podge of Native, Israeli, European and African American history.
I thought about the different freedoms we’ve celebrated together in the past few months – celebrating our Jewish identities on Israel Independence Day in May, the federal recognition of our Black American freedom on Freedom Day (Juneteenth) and now America’s Independence Day in July. After this long, hard and draining year of staring injustice in the face over and over again, I reflected on the many hardships that people go through to obtain their universal and individual freedoms.
So much emotional depth filled inside of me this past year in particular, due to the privileged denials of racial inequities and injustices, as well as the alienation of Jews through antisemitic attacks. I observed the many other social groups still fighting for their freedoms because of unfortunate mistreatment based on ethnicity, gender, ability and more. In the midst of ongoing historical injustice and a worldwide pandemic, I watched American leaders and educators contribute to the division of our great country.
Yet, as I watched a parade filled with different people – different generations, different views – I appreciated just how far we had actually come in America. I watched American flags followed by Pride flags, and a Promote the Vote sign followed one that read Defend the Vote. In that particular moment, I was proud to be an American. This is the beauty and diversity and the need for progress that America should reflect.
Though we celebrate our individual freedoms at times that are meaningful to us, let’s come together regularly to appreciate our cultures and to design societies that encourage freedom and independence for all, all the time.
Support American Independence and Freedom
1. Call out hate and discrimination when you see it. Treating someone unfairly because of their race, ethnicity, faith, gender or abilities is Un-American. Promote unity that makes room for all identities in our national melting pot.
2. #BringDannyHome. We are still advocating to bring Danny Fenster, an American journalist, home after his unlawful detainment by the military regime in Myanmar. Sign the petition, grab a yard sign and a t-shirt, join the Facebook group and BRING DANNY HOME!
4. Understand racial equity in America. Unfortunately, throughout American history some Americans have been treated unfairly because of the color of their skin or where their family originates from. Along with my mission to support the American economy and small businesses by buying local, I checked out Beyonce’s Black Parade and this list of 600+ Black-owned businesses to support in the Metro Detroit area to help show my support with my pocket.
Support Israel Independence and Freedom
1. Call out antisemitism when you see it. Though Israel is known for being the Jewish State, Israel is made up of many different cultures and faiths. Every person deserves to be treated as an individual. Encourage fairness, promote unity in Israel, and stop terrorism against Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
2. Travel to Israel and learn about Israel’s history. Israel’s citizens encounter its deep biblical history every time they walk its streets. Imagine being able to learn about history in ancient texts and then visit those very sites and touch them with your own hands. Programs like The Philos Project, Birthright and Passages Israel can help.
3. Encourage high schoolers to apply for American Jewish Committee’s LFT (Leaders for Tomorrow) Program. LFT is an award-winning leadership development opportunity that enables young Jewish leaders to develop skills to advocate on behalf of the Jewish people, Israel and human rights around the world. Graduates of LFT serve as positive change agents for their peers and community and enter college with the knowledge and confidence to engage in ongoing dialogue around antisemitism and Israel.
4. Encourage university students to apply for Hasbara Fellowships. Hasbara is active on over 95 university campuses across North America. Hasbara Fellows travel to Israel every summer and winter to be empowered with the knowledge, training and information to return to campus as more effective and informed pro-Israel activists.