Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We Jews are SO not Baptist!

Yes, I'm stating the obvious.

But really, tonight it could not have been made more clear. I went to a press conference for the Milwaukee Opportunities for Restoring Employment (MORE) ordinance. They already have the committed support of four alderman and need 10 in order to have a veto-proof vote. The ordinance would require any development project in the city, subsidized by more than $1 million dollars of city tax payers’ money, to hire at least 30% of its needed workforce from residents of the city.

The press conference was held in the basement of the New Hope Baptist Church, a predominantly (maybe completely?) African-American church. The audience was maybe 25% white or Hispanic. A pastor (I think from a different church) welcomed everyone and it was evident from his first sentence that I was a fish out of water.
"Good Evening" he said.
"Good Evening!" said the audience.
"Good Evening!" he said a bit louder.
"Good Evening!" said the audience even louder.

And from there, whether it was the Union worker, any of the four alderman present, or the primary community organizer working on this project, it was very much an audience participation event. Whether it was to shout out "MORE" (as in the name of the ordinance), or "Yessir", just a louder "uh-huh" than usual, it was a fascinating experience.

When the community organizer got to the podium, she repeated the pastor's "Good Evening" call and response, I realized that this is exactly what we do with staff and participants on Shabbat when we call out Shabbat Shalom. Still, we are SO not Baptist.

One particularly nice thing was the prayer that the pastor used to close the meeting. First, everyone stood and looked down. Had I not already been standing in the back this may have caught me by surprise. And since everyone else was looking down, I could look around and see what was going on. But the prayer itself was nice and I was waiting the whole time for him to say "in the name of Jesus....", but he didn't. I believe he said something about "our supreme father" or something like that, but nothing that would have excluded those of us who are "not Baptist".

All in all - pretty interesting. Oh, and all four alderman and the pastor went to Riverside high school here in Milwaukee. Now that's kind of strange.

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