November 1, 2022
Beth Emet alum, Max Yenkin, presented the award, Karen Isaacson was the emcee, the provocative panel discussion was led by J Street President, Jeremy Ben-Ami with U.S. Representative (and Beth Emet member) Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Representative Sean Casten, and State Representative (and Congressional candidate) Delia Ramirez. Many Beth Emet members were in attendance both in-person and virtually.
Mazal Tov to Rabbi London for this well-deserved honor.
Hello everyone! In such challenging times in so many respects, I feel very lucky to be able to be with you all today, not only as a J Street staff member but as a part of J Street and a member of this community. I was deeply honored when our honoree and recipient of the Tzedek v’Shalom (justice and peace) award, Rabbi Andrea London, asked me to introduce her because, while I am J Street’s Associate Regional Director for the Midwest, today I’m speaking as one of the many, many people whose lives have been shaped by Rabbi London’s deep caring, and commitment to making the world a more just and peaceful place.
Andrea has many roles in our community and in organizations across the country, including as one of the co-chairs of J Street’s National Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet. She holds several leadership positions in the Reform movement. She served on the President’s Rabbinic Council of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and has been on the board of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. She also serves as a vice president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. She is dedicated to several social movements, working to build bridges between Jews, Christians, and Muslims across Chicago, and leading racial justice work in Evanston. And she is my Rabbi.
I had the privilege of growing up at Beth Emet with Andrea as my rabbi since I was eight years old. Now, just over 20 years later, it is clear how lucky I have been to have Rabbi London as my spiritual and community leader. Since we were young, whether she was teaching us about the many ways to interpret a parsha (Torah portion) in our Kabbalat Torah program or leading by example by fighting for racial justice in Evanston she instilled in my peers and me that, as Jews, we have a sacred responsibility to work for Tikkun Olam or repairing the world – and that has guided me ever since.
I graduated from college just as Donald Trump won the 2016 election and, having grown up in Andrea’s congregation, I immediately began searching for a way to make a difference in the new political reality. Then, I saw Andrea speak in Washington at the opening of the 2017 J Street National Conference, my first-ever J Street event, and was deeply inspired by her leadership and dedication to J Street’s mission.
But Andrea doesn’t just inspire, she cares, and she connects. So, after the conference, she recommended a summer trip to Israel and the West Bank to witness the conflict and the Occupation firsthand. As many of you have experienced, the trip was an intense exposure to the realities on the ground. Nothing could have prepared me for the conversations I had with those living in the Occupied Territories and the knowledge I gained. Then, just after I returned from the trip, Andrea invited me for coffee, where we grappled with the challenging realities in the West Bank and explored what we could do to make a difference for Palestinians and Israelis.
I knew how lucky I was that day. Not only could I share experiences and tough questions with someone in my life who has been working for peace for decades. But she was also my rabbi. The spiritual leader of my community. It is no wonder that so many young Beth Emet members have followed in Andrea’s footsteps, studying to become members of the clergy, or entering helping and advocacy professions, committed to making the world a better place.
It is impossible to do justice to the impact of Andrea’s work to pursue Tzedek v’Shalom—-justice and peace—through her innumerable efforts on so many issues. I know that I would not be doing the work that I am or be the person that I am today without her leading the way for me and my generation. And there are so many others like me.
Thank you, Andrea! And now I’m honored to welcome to the stage the recipient of J Street Chicago’s 2022 Tzedek v’Shalom award, Rabbi Andrea London