Before a tsunami hits the coastline, all the water recedes. Where there was, minutes ago, ocean, there is suddenly all that it once covered. The muck and debris, crustaceans scuttling and fish gasping for air all briefly exposed before the wave comes with terrifying ferocity.
As our country is reshaped by physical distancing, as schools close and millions lose their jobs, as so many of us are gripped with fear and uncertainty — the deep inequities and injustices in our society are laid bare for all to see.
A healthcare system designed for profit, not care. Historic levels of wealth inequality, economic insecurity, personal debt, and homelessness. Corruption and profiteering at the highest levels of our democratic institutions. Growing authoritarianism powered by bigotry and xenophobia, paired with incompetence. The costs of unchecked capitalism. Centuries of structural racial inequalities.
As Jewish Americans watching the wave grow, we remember that water is often fundamental to new beginnings: the flood before a reborn world; a baby Moses floats down the Nile to his safety and ultimately the liberation of an entire people; a sea splits, opening the way towards the promised land; new Jews are welcomed into klal yisrael, our peoplehood, through an immersion in the ritual bath. Another world is possible, and this moment is revealing exactly how necessary it is.
It is precisely in moments of acute crisis and threats to our immediate well-being that we must also look beyond the here and now, and envision the tomorrow we wish to create. While we make sure that everyone afflicted with COVID-19 receives the care they need, we also commit to healthcare for all. While we work to suspend mortgage payments for those recently unemployed, we must address the crushing debt that shackles communities. While we make sure that those suffering on the front lines of economic collapse can endure, we demand living wages for every worker in this country.
Let us not only survive in the present, but collectively commit to build for the future of a just economy, an inclusive democracy and a compassionate society. The way we rise up is together, as one.
Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc
and Jewish Americans across the country