From Shakespeare to the Bible

a Path to Courageous Conversation

Lisi Wolf

For relationships to move forward, it is important that we trust each other with what matters to us most. In Kurt Vonnegut’s story, Who Am I This Time? Helene and Harry are two shy people who fall in love when they play the romantic leads in a community theater. When they have trouble extending their relationship off stage, Helene invites Harry to dinner and hands him a copy of Romeo and Juliet. They marry and for the rest of their lives they communicate their love through the words of great playwrights.

For Blacks and Jews, the Bible is our Romeo and Juliet. Through our discussions of the Biblical text, we are able to say things to each other we might be hesitant to say otherwise because they touch such deep emotional chords. Through these conversations, we hope to achieve the kind of emotional honesty that is the bedrock of Building Beloved Community.

We all have a story about ourselves that explains who we are.

The story we have about ourselves may not match the story the world tells about us. Change comes when we revise the stories we have about each other and see each other more compassionately, more completely. Blacks and Jews have endured great hardship because the world distorted our story. We can bring change to the world by working together to see our own stories more fully and more humanely.

Our Black-Jewish Bible study is an exercise in re-working and re-shaping our stories together.

I have found great joy in the Blacks and Jews Building Beloved Community project through participation in discussion groups and Bible studies. Two years ago I participated in the first Bible study, which transitioned to a "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" program. The new program was designed to help build relationships between Black and Jewish communities over the long term and the person I was paired with has become a dear friend. We have met consistently once a week for the past two year and the experience has been transformational in my learning more about the Jewish culture and her learning more about the Black culture. We have supported each other through the various traumatic experiences of racism and antisemitism over the past few years. We have also celebrated with each other through joyful life transitions and accomplishments of aspirational goals. Through my service on the advisory board, I have the opportunity to share my vision on how we can create more experiences for Blacks and Jews to Build Beloved Community.
Dr. Angela Griffin
Rabbi Jay and Dr. Mark have done an outstanding job organizing multiple series of powerful Building Beloved Community interactive discussions for the Black and Jewish communities. While each meeting begins with Bible text to create neutral and mutually relatable content, discussions quickly launch into passionate, deeply resonating topics with personal histories, stories, and pleas. Conversations and experiences are shared with truth, emotion, and sincere openness. We lean into the belief that supporting each other will proceed at the speed for which trust and relationships are built. I made a dear new friend through my participation in this group. We’ve met on Zoom once a week for two years since the start of the Pandemic. This group and our growing relationships are a personal inspiration and can serve as a model that would greatly benefit all communities. I hope to see an expansion of this noble and worthwhile mission.
Etana Kunovsky