Mending the Broken

This piece is featured in our fall 2020 issue. We invite you to download this special print issue here.


Mending the Broken by Zoe Oppenheimer

Editor’s Note: If you follow any Jewish Instagram account or receive emails from any Jewish organizations, you’ve probably noticed the use of the phrase “Tikkun Olam” as a prevailing response to social justice issues. While I find meaning in turning to spiritual ideas in moments of sadness and anger, I take issue with this rhetoric of “repairing the world” when many, including myself, find difficulty in expressing why it needs repairing in the first place. While arranging the photos for “Mending the Broken,” I found myself wondering about the broken, unjust matters beyond the series’ shattered glass, peaceful protester, and graffitied messages, police brutality and systemic racism only two among them. I question “Tikkun Olam” when I remind myself that the world was not “broken” by some mystical force, instead Lurianic Kabbalah teaches that we have only ourselves, humanity, to blame for our reality. Because of Adam’s sins in the Garden of Eden, God’s light and power intermingled with humanity, creating a world of good and evil. Since the moment of creation, we’ve taken Adam’s bruised apple, just as it was beginning to blossom, and continued to bash it into the ground. I believe that white Jews, as well as primarily white Jewish institutions, must take stronger stances and recognize our complicity in “Shover Olam,” breaking the world, before making promises to “mend” it. —Elena Eisenstadt