A Name and A Place for All

Recently, members of the Boulder County Together Colorado Lay and Faith Leader Caucuses came together with people all over the county came together to talk about housing justice–most particularly as it pertains to people living in mobile home communities.

As a part of the program, my good friend, Rabbi Marc Soloway of Congregation Bonai Shalom and I were asked to bring in the faith component to why we felt called to address housing justice. What is below, is our presentation and invitation to those 175 people gathered.

In addition to this, in the moment of creativity we were in when we put this invitation together, we spontaneously did a podcast discussing the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in light of our reflection on justice being an honoring of everyone’s name and place. You can listen to the podcast below.

A Name and A Place for All

That’s why from our perspective, doing justice is precisely about acknowledging the dignity of everyone’s name and place.

Rabbi Marc Soloway, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Boulder

Marc:

I am Rabbi Marc Soloway of Congregation Bonai Shalom.

“Ma norah hamakom hazeh – how awesome is this place” says Jacob after his dream of a ladder of angels. “God was in this place and I did not know it.”

Hamakom – place – is in Jewish tradition one of God’s names.  The place. The place where we find God, but also very much our physical world – that which protects us, shelters us, keeps us safe, gives us part of our identity, comforts us.  The traditional Hebrew greeting to those in mourning is hamakom y’nachem etchem b’toch sh’ar aveilim – may Hamakom, God as place, comfort you along with all mourners.  So space and place are about community and the ways in which we show up for each other and support each each other, and space is also about God’s embracing presence, but ultimately hamakom – the space, the place is about the basic human need for the dignity of a home in which their needs are met.

My friend Pedro had the idea to bring the teaching about hamakom, place, to this space, to help us set our intention together for this gathering, for this action.

Pedro:

I am Rev. Pedro Silva of First Congregational Church, Boulder United Church of Christ.

When my mother decided to practice Judaism, I thought that I would be supportive by learning a little more about the tradition. One of the things that I connected to the most were the many names for the Divine in this tradition. The two that struck me the most were HaShem which means “The Name” and HaMakom which Rabbi Marc just introduced.  They were so impactful for me because both name and place are central to our identities. When we meet people for the first time, two of the most common questions we ask are, “What is your name?” And “Where are you from?” And for generation upon generation the relationship between name and place were relatively inseparable. If you knew someone’s name, then you knew where they were from. So the brilliance of what I received from this new awareness was that Name and Place both being names for God demonstrated that the very essence of being human emerges from these two aspects of identity.

Realizing this, one might be able to understand why when people go about creating institutions that use oppression as a tool to subjugate other people, the first things they take away from us are our place and our names and often rename us and replace us in a lesser capacity than they deserve.

Marc:

That’s why from our perspective, doing justice is precisely about acknowledging the dignity of everyone’s name and place.

We all have a name, we all have a place, so turn now to a neighbor, perhaps someone you don’t know and ask other your name and your place, even if you know their name.

Pedro:

What has brought us here today is the realization that there are too many of us whose names and places are either lost or threatened. We know that there is a lack of affordable housing in Boulder County and increasingly in other areas in the state and the country. And we see this as unjust. So the invitation here tonight is for us begin…

And now, let’s turn to one another and offer the blessing, “May you always have a place and may everyone know your name.”

“Marc, may you always have a place and may everyone know your name.”

“Pedro, may you always have a place and may everyone know your name.”

Closing

Marc cants, “Ma norah hamakom hazeh – how awesome is this place”


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