The Three Weeks that lead to Tisha B’Av began at a rally to support detained immigrant Jose Robles in Tacoma. Dina Burstein, event organizer, Kadima member, and leader in the Jewish Coalition for Immigration Justice Northwest, began the rally with the Jewish call for showing up: Hineini (pronounced hee-NAY-nee) - here I am.
Hineini is what Judaism's earliest prophets and ancestors said when called for service by a higher power. The Source of Life, called Adonai (ah-doe-NIGH) or nicknamed HaShem (hah-SHEM) meaning "the name," spoke directly to humans, the stories go. And we would know the human was serious in their listening and their response when they would recite this keyword: Hineini. Here I am.
Showing up can be underestimated. Does it really matter if I am there? Would it really matter if I go? I received a good lesson and reminder about the importance of presence again this week. In this era of protesting the separation of families by ICE, I was asked by a friend and colleague to attend the arraignment of a 14 year old at the Youth Detention Center in Seattle's Central District.
At first look, I did not think I could attend. I was scheduled to be with both my kids after picking one of them up from camp. It was short notice. I attempted to find someone else to go instead. And then I thought about it a little more. I prayed about it. I asked for my partner's thinking. And through these acts, I realized how doable it could be to be present myself. To be able to be serious in my listening and my response. To be able to say hineini.
After packing a bag of snacks, water, and activities for my kids, we rushed from camp pick-up to the detention center where I had spent many protests and prayer services over the past few years in support of the No New Youth Jail movement. As we pulled up, my oldest daughter remembered that she had been there before, not just at a protest or two with me in the past, but with her Seattle Public School field trip there to celebrate Juneteenth. Huh.
We walked inside to a throng of people assembled in support of this young man and his family. Each person that entered got an enthusiastic greeting from the crowd. Each person that came lifted the spirits of everyone else. After some waiting, and people greeting old friends and making new ones, it was time to enter the courtroom...but there was only room for 16 of us inside, we were being told.
I assumed to be support on the outside. Besides, I did not know the young man, and was not central to his family or their community. But there is something important about showing up for one another. My daughters and I were told we should be part of the 16, and together, a diverse network of people went into the courtroom to be present and supportive.
After hearing the defense and the prosecution, the judge ruled with the defense and mentioned the import of seeing a supportive community presence, and a commitment to taking responsibility for the defendant, in his ruling.
Our presence mattered. Kadima board president Jonathan Rosenblum said as we walked away from the community victory: "showing up is 90% of life." And our presence, this day, added up to at least that. Hineini.
The Three Weeks conclude this weekend and there are two more opportunities to show up. TODAY, at ICE headquarters, and again at the same location on Sunday, hosted by Kol HaNeshama, to commemorate Tisha B’Av.
It is my hope that I, and each of us, can show up in all the ways we can. For many, “never again is now,” while for others never again seems continual. Dr. King’s adage that “it is always the right time to do what right” reminds us that the need for our presence is constant. May we be blessed in our showing up and let us not shy away.