Fringes: a feminist, non-zionist havurah turned 15 this month.
How have 15 years gone past since we started this radical little idea in a freezing cold 2nd floor room in a house in the Germantown neighborhood of NW Philadelphia?
We wanted a prayer life that respected our politics, our spirits and our minds, and together took the chance on making it up as we went along.
We’re still here, two years after “making it up as we go” became a kind of challenge we’d never expected. And we’re still treating all liberatory texts as Torah and studying them in the fierce light of our community.
The theme of our service this month was “Holding On.” Two full years of fear and loss and adapting and adapting and adapting and we are, all of us, exhausted. Our human brains are wired to help guide us through panic, but not when the source of that panic goes on for 24 months — so we prayed and sang words that honored just how tired we are, and that strengthened us by calling in the power of our connections to one another and to the earth.
We listened to the song “Joy & Grief” by The Bengsons – you can listen here.
Throughout the service we sang a song new to us – Molly Hartwell’s “Put Your Roots Down.” As communities have found this song and embraced it many different versions abound. Here’s a version on Soundcloud to give you a sense of the song. Singing it over and over felt so right.
For Torah study we looked at the February 2022 Amnesty International report on Israeli Apartheid. You can find the report here. Elliott reviewed the report, and shared what makes it different from other human rights reports over the years. (There’s a lot of text in the service liturgy slides if you want a quick intro).
Then, because we are an inter-generational community, those of us who had taken part in the years of protest against Apartheid in South Africa shared some of our stories and reflections on the power of the word “apartheid” and what it felt like to be part of a vast, international struggle on the side of justice.
Those of us who were the founding members of Fringes also talked about our experiences as Jewish activists who were already using the word “apartheid” when the group was founded in 2007, and how our willingness to question not just the Occupation but the entire Zionist project got us removed from our home synagogue and from the most prominent national “Pro-Palestinian” Jewish activist group.