Last week, when I had heard there were protesters asking people to boycott Manny’s Café, I chose to show my support by picking up dinner from there on my way home. A “community café” in the Mission, Manny’s functions as a civic social gathering place to host discussions on community issues.
My grandparents sailed through the harbor of hopes and dreams nearly a century ago. They knew too well the pain and sadness they left behind; less clear was what would await them here where “the streets were paved with gold.”
What they found was, in a word, complicated.
Rami's been coming to our INCLUDE Special Needs Family Camp for years. Rami has autism and he's non-verbal. So everyone was pleasantly surprised to see that he had learned to use a keyboard to communicate. Typing one letter at a time with a stick, Rami let us know what he wanted:
"I want Torah study this year that is challenging," he wrote. "Having some respect for our intelligence is critical for us to live good lives."
At our Family Camp, Rami did participate in Torah study. He used his keyboard to tell us that it was "a good discussion of the parasha (Torah portion)."
In ten days we celebrate Shavuot, and the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. In Jewish tradition, we experience Shavuot as if we were there at Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah ourselves. The sense of solidarity and peoplehood - surrounded by Jews, all of us bound together by this shared experience - can be profound. "We were all there together," we say, and "we are all here together."
But, who is "we?"