By Chad Kamen, New Roots Intern
“Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” - Lilo and Stitch
Family is a broad term that we all come to with our own preconceived notions and connotations. To me, family is two-fold; there is my “family,” the small nuclear unit I was born into, and the much broader “community-family” of which I am a proud participant. Within this larger “community-family” is my close friends, mentors, and other people who have greatly affected my life; as of last Wednesday, June 17th, I had the pleasure of expanding this collective once again.
Last Wednesday, June 17th, I attended New Roots' first interfaith food justice workshop (a pairing of Living Faith Christian Ministries and Congregation Adath Jeshurun) and was able to be a part of something that is quite hard to adequately translate into a blog post. I could write about the facts of the event (who spoke when, what was said, etc.), but the true success of the night happened alongside the evening's actual itinerary; people spoke. Now, I know vague clauses can come off as overdramatic, but the success of the night was truly that dialogues were renewed in the basement of Living Faith Christian Ministries between two groups of people who have been separated for quite some time. From an outside perspective, people from what would seem to be greatly different backgrounds shared stories, recanted family food-related adventures, and broke bread like old chums. The magic of the night was that all in attendance were actually long-lost friends, not just new acquaintances. Before the course of history took hold and swept these communities in different directions, these people did talk. From the early 1900's to the late 1960's, small Jewish family-owned grocery stores were abundant in West Louisville. One of these very stores, Zeigler's, became one of the first integrated lunch counters in Louisville. With the tumultuous end to the 1960's, these stores started to disappear and conversations between most Jews and the citizens of West Louisville were halted. Now, after almost 50 years of little to no communication, I got to witness the reunion. The faces may have changed, but the connection was still there!
It is easy for us to forget or leave behind the past when it is left to fade away; connections and friends can disappear into the woodwork if we let them. Many of the problems in the world could be bettered, and maybe even fixed, if we rekindled some of our lost relationships. History and chance may play their part, but nothing comes close to the power of reaching out. On June 17th, a simple workshop reminded me of the importance of the idea that family is as temporal as you let it be. Humanity is all one collective family, interconnected by a shared history and DNA. And as a Disney character once told me, family is a responsibility; it is an obligation to ensure that every member, regardless of circumstance, is accounted for and shown compassion.