L'dor V'dor: Learning Anti-Racism From Past Generations
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
By Ruthie Stolovitz, Hillel of Georgia Tech '23
Amidst the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others, we have all been prompted to question our roles in the fight against racism. As a Jewish college student, I’ve been in constant inner turmoil about my role in the conversation. The biggest question that has come to my attention is “what can I do?” After the Instagram posts, what should I do next?
A core value in Judaism is the Hebrew phrase ‘L’dor v’dor’ (לדור ודור), from generation to generation. As Jews, we are constantly remembering and recalling the past. We read the Torah every Jewish year, we sit for hours recounting the Passover story, and every year on Yom Ha’Shoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) we recall the horrors of the Holocaust. But why do we do this? It is not so that we can sit in our own misery or so we can mindlessly rehash the past. Rather, it is a way to understand the present.
So, when the Breman Museum and Hillel’s of Georgia partnered up to present a virtual civil rights trolley tour of Atlanta, I knew I could find some of the answers to my questions. In order to understand my role in the present I knew I had to understand the influential roles of Jewish leaders in the past.
As we rode through the streets of Atlanta via Google maps, it was clear to me who I wish to emulate. There was such a clear division between those who stood up against racism and segregation and those who were passive to the injustices. On one end of the spectrum, Rabbi Rothschild partnered up with Martin Luther King Jr. while some Jewish business owners denied service to black customers. So clear was this distinction and so repulsive was the racist ignorance of those who decided to be passive. Despite the shared suffering, generational trauma, and discrimination between the black and Jewish community, there still existed and continues to exist room within both communities to hate. It was and is very possible to be Jewish and passive about racism.
Hearing of the bravery and kindness of Rabbi Rothschild really lit a fire beneath me. Rather than using my Jewishness as a barrier, a form of ‘protection’ that allows me to be passive to racism, I choose to use my Jewishness to fuel my own personal fight against injustice.
L’dor V’dor. I choose to remember my people’s history and to learn from it, for I know that my children will learn from my generation’s mistakes and triumphs as well.