I have a very dark past, a past which I have regretted for many years now, and since becoming a Jew, I have been actively working towards redeption/T’Shuva. I have been told that I shouldn’t be hard on myself and several people have said I’m on a journey that only I can walk in life, I believe the latter. I firmly believe that redemption must come in three phases, those offended, G-D, and the self. I have asked many friends who are people of color, as well as many Jewish friends and most have said the same thing: “Just keep working on this side of the fence, and all is forgiven.” G-D has led me to  Judaism and I have asked it countless times for forgiveness and I believe I have Hashem’s blessing as well, as I feel so deeply connected to G-D today.

…Then I asked myself for forgiveness… [cue crickets]

I do not and can not forgive myself yet, I feel I have a lot to atone for and to seek redemption for through my actions and words. I don’t beat myself up over it, yet I know that for me to feel like I can forgive myself for letting my mind be so swayed by such heinous ideology, that it will take a lot of time and a lot of work. The work I have done is not enough, but I know it will be, the time I have been out is not enough, but I know it will be. Many who leave the life I lived just never think about it, but I have used introspection to dissect every element of the movement I was involved in. Many say, “Whew I’m glad I left,” and just move on (nothing wrong with that), but for me as a former leader, I have more to atone for, more to do to try to heal the world from my past self. 

There’s a lot of darkness in this world, a lot of pain and suffering, and I once was a catalyst of that darkness, I once actively worked towards the propagation of that pain and suffering. I recruited others into it, I reinforced the ideology and I lead them to cause more pain and suffering in the world through that ideology. This is my proverbial “cross to bear,” and one I willfully accept as something I must do to make the world better, to repair the world, for Tikkun Olam. 

I refuse to beat myself up over my past, but I also refuse to say, “that’s the past,” and leave it at that. The knowledge I gained from operations to exacting ideology, from recruitment tactics to how they rebrand and repackage hate, can be used as a tool against it and one I willingly wield and teach in my work. I have a lot of work and time to yet give and every time I get to talk to others about it, give a speech, or write about it, I feel I am one more step up the ladder towards reaching redemption. While many would in fact let their past haunt them, I use it for fuel to keep me pushing and driving onward towards unity, love, and redemption. 

I will continue to seek redemption from others I may have affected, and from myself, but this work is far from over…

Shalom!