We hope you are finding time to gather with friends and loved ones during these difficult days. We’re grateful to be a part of your community, and, as we did last year, we want to celebrate Hanukkah by introducing you to some of the writers, editors, and organizational staff who make Jewish Currents what it is. Each night, you’ll meet a different member of our team, who will reflect on work they found particularly meaningful from the last year.
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I’m Nathan Goldman, the managing editor at Jewish Currents. In our Winter 2022 issue on the theme of rest, we published a searing manifesto written by the Atlanta-based Fayer Collective. This self-described “group of Jewish revolutionaries, artists, workers, students, criminals, and free lovers” is part of a decentralized coalition of hundreds of activists fighting to prevent the city from razing 381 acres of Atlanta forest land and building the country’s largest police training center. The collective interprets their efforts to sabotage the construction of “Cop City” as an expression of the biblical injunction “to observe the Shmita year,” a sabbatical for the land that recurs every seven years. By occupying the forest, spiking trees to prevent their felling, and otherwise gumming up the machinery of demolition, they aim “to help the forest seize its Sabbath.” Shmita, the manifesto argues, has largely been co-opted by mainstream institutions, which encourage observance through anodyne gestures like cleaning parks rather than substantive reckonings with the exploitative logics of profit, if not neglected entirely. For the Fayer Collective, the “struggle against cops and capital”—which is also “a fight for spaces to actually experience the world, to truly see each other and ourselves”—is an act of reclaiming the ancient concept, and reconnecting with its critical insistence on divesting from extraction.
I’ve thought of this piece often over the past two months, as the vast majority of Jewish institutions and religious leaders have closed ranks around Israel. It serves as a reminder that the Jewish canon is rich with resources for dissenting minyans to refuse the world’s violence, including the unthinkable cruelty to which our tradition is now horribly attached. In the Fayer Collective’s manifesto, which presents theology not as an asset of empire but as a route toward liberation, Judaism fortifies us to engage wholly in the terrain of struggle.
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