We Are, We Are, We Are, WRJ

December 2, 2022Shari Carruthers and Lillian Burkenheim Silver

Authors’ Note: Throughout this piece, you will read lyrics from WRJ’s newest Social Justice anthem, “Another Thing Coming,” by musician Kyra Goldman. You can listen to the full version here.

 

“We are, we are, we are, WRJ”

In October 2022, 88 of us traveled from across North America to Atlanta to join other sisters on the WRJ Civil Rights Journey. Armed with articles, movies, books, and memories about the fight for racial equality in the 1950s and 1960s, we visited historical landmarks in Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham. We found what we knew intellectually was no match for walking in the footsteps of those who were there and have continued to advocate and advance racial equality. As we kick off WRJ’s end-of-year campaign, we reflect on the impact of this trip and the work still to be done.

 

“We’ve spoken out for civil rights back when,”

WRJ has fought for equal rights, women’s rights, and civil rights for more than 100 years. During this trip, we stood at the gathering place for the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and had the honor to speak to and hear from people like Joanne Bland, who at 8 years old, became a witness and participant in the civil rights battles in Selma. Joanne had each of us pick up a pebble from the ground where the Selma to Montgomery march began so we could truly understand the gravity of where we were.

 

“And we will do it again, today”

WRJ connects our women to social justice advocates, warriors, and educators like Martha Hawkins, who shared her story about hitting rock bottom, being on welfare and wanting to take her own life, to starting over and creating Martha’s Place (a restaurant) where she employs people who need help and gives them encouragement to live. Together, we heard from Bishop Calvin Woods in Kelly Ingram Park, who relayed his experiences with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his continued leadership in the Southern Christian Leadership Council to challenge segregation and racial discrimination.

Affirming WRJ’s work to provide safe places to connect, worship, and build lifelong relationships, we were welcomed to Shabbat services at a Temple in Birmingham. We had the honor of celebrating Simchas Torah and several Hebrew school milestones with the congregation. At Shabbat dinner, we heard from long-time member Ellen Erdreich, who described her father as “Atticus Finch,” fighting for human rights for everyone. We also attended Ebeneezer Baptist Church, the church of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father. Here, we were welcomed and inspired by Georgia Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock as he led his congregation. 

 

“We are, we are, we are WRJ

As a WRJ member, you know that we learn, we experience, we advocate, and most importantly, we take action. Throughout this journey, we wrote and mailed 700 ‘GO VOTE’ postcards to Georgia voters; we prayed together that we continue to work towards a more just world for all, and we honored those who fought the fight and died because of it. Thanks to this transformative experience, were given tools to return to our own congregations and communities to do the work for racial equality, inclusion, and justice. 

 

Here are a few sentiments from trip participants:

 

 “I’m home, and it’s going to take me a while to unpack not just my suitcase but all the experiences and emotions from this trip.” Genia Neuhaus, WRJ North American Board Member

“Today, I too, reached into my pocket, and there were the little stones that I had picked up in Selma at Joanne’s bidding.  A precious memory” - Virginia Geller, WRJ member, Mid-Atlantic District

 

We know this important work is ongoing. Some of it is just beginning, and the opportunity to have experiences like this - with our WRJ sisters - needs your critical support. To be on the ground and bring that organizing work back to our home communities, with hundreds of new stories, resources, and educational moments to share, is something that makes WRJ unique and so close to our hearts. Please give generously.

 

We are, we are, we are WRJ

We’ve spoken out for civil rights back when,

and we will do it again today.     
 

Donate to WRJ's End of Year campaign today!        

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