Keep Loving, Keep Fighting: Reflections after Thanksgiving
Sitting in my grandparents' house in Northridge, CA, on stolen land that was originally Barbareño and Chumash territory, I'm thinking a lot about how to foster space for gratitude without erasing the pain and violence in the paths that brought us to this place.
Because rolled up in my story, in the events that led to me being in this place with my cherished family of origin, is a lot of pain and violence.
My grandparents' families came to this country to escape genocide. As Jews, our migrations have rarely been fully chosen, and tracing the lineage of my family is also tracing the lines of multiple European Jewish genocides: the Inquisition (we left Abrantes, Portugal in 1592, miraculously, with permission), Pogroms (we left small shtetls outside Kiev in the early 1900s), and the Holocaust (we left Hamburg, Germany in 1935). And then we arrived in a place where, though we were still Other, we were less Other than somebody else.
Where, though my grandmother's family worked in sweatshops, they were able to build powerful leftist labor unions and community institutions in the Bronx and the Lower East Side of Manhattan (ILGWU! Co-op City!). A place where, though his German accent was forcibly unlearned, my grandfather had a route to education and to social and financial stability through the US Military. The movements they built and the social safety net and social services that supported them (some of which were won by those movements) didn't exist in a vacuum. They were within the context of continuing racism and xenophobia—sometimes still directed toward us, but mostly directed toward others.
Jews, particularly white or nearly white Jews from Europe, have been both victims and beneficiaries of racist systems, in the US and abroad. Yet, the land sold to some of us in the US was still stolen land. And though many Jews have never experienced significant economic mobility and still live in poverty, for my family the value of that once-stolen land gave us access to a level of stability we didn't know in the shtetls of Ukraine.
And so, on this Chumash and Barbareño land, as I sit with three generations of my family of origin and feel immense gratitude that we can be together with safety and love, I'm also mourning for the people who can't do the same. Some because we are on their land; land that was violently stolen from their family. Some because we got bumped ahead of them on this country’s ladder of success and pushed them back down. Some because the extractive economies of capitalism that lifted my family up drained resources from them without replenishing. Some because for them, the manifestation of generations of embodied trauma continues to be patterns of pain and violence at home, or for so many queer and trans people, expulsion from those homes.
In the midst of holding all of those things, I'm grateful for time with my aging grandparents. I'm grateful for a full refrigerator and always room for one more. I'm grateful for SoCal sun and flowers still in bloom. I'm grateful that late last night, I was able to talk with my family about being in the streets on Tuesday night, about marching and chanting for racial justice outside the walls of a prison filled with black and brown people.
And so I'm thinking about how to love and fight. About hands spread wide to hold all of the pieces, and about the heart as a tool of transformation. "Remember, your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. Keep loving, keep fighting."
How to cite this page
Ware, Joanna . "Keep Loving, Keep Fighting: Reflections after Thanksgiving ." 2 December 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 20, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/keep-loving-keep-fighting-reflecting-after-thanksgiving>.