Jewce, a new interactive Shabbat morning program reached a peak with Parshat Balak. In the Parasha, Bilam is riding a donkey on his way to curse the people of Israel, when an angel that Bilam cannot see forces the donkey off the road. Bilam gets mad at the donkey, not knowing that he did that because of the angel. After Bilam curses at the donkey, he becomes able to see the angel and realizes why the donkey was forced off the road.
The chanichimot utilized this parasha as a way to think about and learn about the voices that are heard in society, and how voices translate into power. In the parasha, the donkey has no voice, and is not able to speak up to say what is happening to him. Bilam can not see the angel, in the same way that sometimes people in places of privilege cannot see the systems of oppression working against marginalized groups of people, and taking away their voice.
As part of the activity, chanichimot were assigned different identities with different limitations, for example, one chanichol may only be able to use hand signals, while another chanichol is able to speak fully except for using the word “the.” In these identities, chanichimot had to argue why they should get a cup of Juice. Through this, they were able to understand what it is like to have different voices in society, all striving for the same thing, and how limitations based on identity make it harder to have a voice and power in society, and make it harder to get what you want. The chanichimot talked about which groups of people in our society have voices that are heard louder, and which voices are oppressed. They also talked about the difference between speaking for others, and uplifting the voices of others, and ways that they personally can uplift the voices of identities that are oppressed.
And as in every Jewce program this summer, they then drank juice and continued on to Chug Kef (fun Shabbat elective).