Art made created November 2018 with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). Style + lettering in tribute to Jewish art hero Ben Shahn.
JFREJ is such a gem and I’m so grateful for their tireless work to battle racism inside & outside jewish communities. As they have said: “Antisemitism is a pillar of white supremacy, and as white supremacy rears its head more brazenly, so does antisemitism.”
Here is the story of these words: "In 1939, a group of Hasidic Jews from the Polish city of Lublin were backed up against barbed wire and ordered to sing to their own execution. One of the men began: “Lomir zich iberbetn, iberbetn, iberbetn” – “Let us reconcile…” But nobody joined him.
Then he improvised: “Mir veln zey iberlebn, iberlebn, iberlebn” —"We will outlive them.” Instantly the song took hold among the entire people, until it catapulted them into a stormy and feverish dance. The commander at first laughed but then “he realized they weren’t accommodating him; they were defeating him. He ordered them to stop.” But they continued. Even when the SS troops charged at them." Most of them lost their lives that day but some lived to tell this story.
We are in a moment when the forces of white supremacy are trying to extinguish us. Not just our bodies but our spirit of resistance.
Sometimes we proclaim "solidarity will keep us safe!" Often our networks keep us safe, but there is no mythical place of guaranteed safety. We know freedom fighters continue to lose their lives, in Ferguson, Palestine, Charlottesville…
What does it mean to live and outlive? To me this song calls out to truly being alive, to being Awake to the "inescapable network of mutuality" as Rev. King taught us. To living in our deepest purpose and values. To what I most desire.
I have no biological link to my trans ancestors, but I feel them alive in my bones—every one who fought to live and imagine. Their struggle allows me to exist and continue the struggle. And I know their spirit and art comes through me and enables other people to live. Most of my family was killed by Nazis, but I know somewhere in my lineage were people who fought injustice and treasured creation. We will never know each other but their life comes back to me across non-linear time, up through ashes in this song.
Special thank you to Hannah Temple and Tsibele for unearthing this song for our resistance.