As we watch what is happening in the world unfold, it can be extremely hard to stay optimistic. But staying connected, to our guiding principles, to our selves – and being in community – I believe this is what sustains us in hard times. What does being in community really mean? Over these last few weeks, I have had a chance to experience this up close and personal.
It started in December, when I attended an event co-sponsored by the New England Jewish Labor Committee and Matahari Women Workers’ Center, a Greater Boston organization of women of color, immigrant women and families who organize as sisters, workers, and survivors for personal and societal transformation, justice and human rights. The event was entitled, In Our Care: Creating Community Protection in an Era of Uncertainty/First Report on Oral History Project of Domestic Workers and Employers of Domestic Workers. This community building event provided those in attendance the opportunity to discuss the future of domestic care in our lives and in our society, and ask the question, “How does our view of domestic work/labor impact the way we all care for one another in society?”
The event was a powerful experience in and of itself, as together we all shared our personal stories of immigration, and how our immigration histories have shaped our lives, past and present. I walked away with a much deeper appreciation for both the value of listening to the stories we all have to tell, as well as the different ways that the immigrant experience has had an impact on each of us. The value of this event was heightened because, with the help of translators and translation devices, we were able to hear the stories in the native languages of the storytellers.
But what happened shortly following the event was yet another way that I learned about the real meaning of being in community. Matahari and the JLC approached my congregation, Dorshei Tzedek, to help a domestic worker, who was in an exploitive working environment, find short-term housing. The assistance was needed immediately, and many households in my congregation stepped up and offered housing (which was graciously accepted). Even more of my community offered additional support and resources. There was a real need and we were there - for a stranger in need and for each other.
These two experiences have come at a time when I am struggling to make sense of the world around me. I feel so blessed to be in this community – the one of which I have been a part for many years, and the one that continues to expand beyond where I thought it ended.
What I realized from these distinct and meaningful experiences is that I am more of the person I want to be when I am in community, and that community means welcoming and even inviting others in with whom I might not have had the chance to connect before. I am committed to being part of a community that allows stories to be heard, that steps up when there is a need, and that is welcoming of those who want to support each other. When I am in this community, I am able to move forward with hope and optimism for the future.
Amy Mazur is a member of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, and a volunteer with the Jewish Labor Committee who has supported the JLC’s work with the Hyatt 100, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights and the Fight for 15. Amy is also pleased to be building her community to include more collaboration with the Matahari Women Workers’ Center.