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"We Are Coming Home": Defining a Jewish Revolution

Introduction

The Brooklyn Bridge Collective was a small countercultural Jewish community. They wrote a newspaper called Brooklyn Bridge. The excerpt below was taken from an article published in the first issue of the community's newspaper in February 1971.

We Are Coming Home, Excerpt

…Brooklyn Bridge is the road we are taking back home. It is a Revolutionary Jewish newspaper. Jewish, because that is what we are; because our Jewishness plays an important part in shaping our total selves, and in the world we are trying to create we want to be full human beings, not assimilated nonentities; because we have learned – as have women, and blacks, and gay people – that unless we look out for ourselves, we are just as likely to be the victims of oppression in a revolutionary society as we are in this one. Revolutionary, because we realize that playing the roles America forces on us will destroy us as it destroyed our parents; because we see that for our people to be free, all people must be free and the deadly hands of America lifted off our backs.

Our struggle begins at home, with the oppression we face as Jewish people in America. We have been trapped in the buffer-zone between other oppressed peoples and the ruling class; shunted into the bureaucracies of the military-industrial-education complex. The commitment of our people to find meaningful and human work – to build a decent society, as teachers, doctors, scientists – is impossible in obscene America. It only alienates us and is used against us. The age-old oppression of Jew-hating and Jew-baiting is like any other racism, both irrational and calculated at the same time. False myths and stereotypes have been imposed on us for centuries. The idea that assimilation through the “melting pot” will end Jew-hating is a dehumanizing life. Assimilation means believing those myths and stereotypes. It means being cut off from our own history, being cut off from each other. Attempts to assimilate have led us to self-hatred. But no matter how much we might have effaced our spirit, Jews as a nation remain a reality in America, as much of a reality as Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Chinese, Italians.

Brooklyn Bridge is a voice in the struggle to define ourselves. Organized Judaism and the “Jewish establishment” have failed us. The institutions and organizations created to serve the needs and goals of Jewish People have co-opted to serve other interests. They represent us as a religion, rather than as the nation we are. Jewish philanthropy no longer aids Jews who need it; Jewish education tones down our people’s historic fight to survive and teaches us to be “nice Jewish boys and girls.” Our culture has been made rigid in the name of tradition and continues sexist oppression both in religious practice and in day-to-day life. Our synagogues are no longer the nexus of our community, but often only temples of ill-founded self-congratulations.

…As Jews we have fully experienced the horrors of genocide, racism, and exploitation. As Jews we carry a vision rising out of our tradition of a radical and inclusive social justice. As women and men struggling to survive in America we know we must destroy sexism, elitism, and all other systems of domination that threaten to debilitate our struggle. We will grow in our struggle and we will win.

Details

Brooklyn Bridge Collective, "We Are Coming Home,”263 in Staub, Michael E., ed. 2004 The Jewish 1960s: An American Sourcebook. Boston: Brandeis University Press

Discussion Questions

  1. What types of roles do you think America had forced Jews to play? In what way does this diminish the Jew (and/or other groups)? To what degree is this still true today?
  2. How does assimilation or the "melting pot" cut Jews off from their history?
  3. What do you think the writers mean by "nice Jewish boys and girls"? Do you think this is what Jewish organizations and institutions still want today?
  4. What do you think the writers have learned from the Civil Rights Movement, and other liberation movements? How have they applied these insights to the Jewish community?
  5. Do the writers think it's important to work within the Jewish community? Outside of the Jewish community? Or some combination of both? What makes you think that?

Tableaux Vivants

With your group, plan two tableaux vivants ("living pictures" in French) that will help teach your classmates about the document you just discussed. What would a painting or photograph illustrating this document look like? Recreate that picture with members of your group stepping in as the characters represented.

  1. The first tableau vivant pose should illustrate "the way things were"—the circumstances that the activists wanted to change, (based on your document).
  2. The second pose should illustrate that change (based on your document). In the second pose, each member of your group should be clear who their character is, what role that character plays, and what s/he believes. (see below)

After completing your poses, you will be asked to communicate the following to your classmates about the document you discussed, while staying in character:

  • What is the Brooklyn Bridge Collective and newspaper? Who are you?
  • What concerns do you have?
  • Is your activism focused within the Jewish community or more about the broader community?
  • How, if at all, do you see your struggle as connected to the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How do you plan to bring about the change you want to see? (if known from the document)

You should also be prepared to answer other questions posed by other students in the class, while staying in character.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. ""We Are Coming Home": Defining a Jewish Revolution." (Viewed on November 27, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/documentstudies/we-are-coming-home-defining-jewish-revolution>.

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