By Missions Director Heidi Kuperman
Water hoses and attacking police dogs.
Children participating in non-violent protests so they could simply live as equal human beings in the “land of the free.”
Images of the Holocaust came to my mind.
But I was in Freedom Park in Birmingham, Alabama. I was standing with 43 other women from our community, listening to Bishop Reverend Calvin Woods, a Civil Rights worker in the 50’s and 60’s, tell us his story of being arrested. We heard the parallels throughout history of both African Americans and Jews struggling and fighting for freedom.
As Missions Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ my job is to plan Missions, mainly overseas, to our partnership communities. But this Women’s Philanthropy Civil Rights Journey was different; this Mission was an opportunity for our group of women to explore Jewish and non-Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights struggle in America. We visited sites in Atlanta and Alabama and, at each stop along the way, we were reminded how important it is to tell and retell the stories from this tumultuous chapter in our country’s history. We concluded the trip with a visit to the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Atlanta – an emotional reminder that prejudice and injustice against all minority groups are a constant in this world.
Now I’m home and I’m feeling like I lived a dream those four days. I participated in something I never thought about much before. I met heroes; people who stood up for their rights and who succeeded in changing their destiny. I heard stories that inspired me and that made me proud. I spent International Women’s Awareness Day with 43 amazing women from Greater MetroWest who care deeply about all people, regardless of their race, religion, or color.
You can do this too. Join a Federation Mission and learn more about what we do here, in Israel, and around the world. For more information, call me at (973) 929-3046.