Jewish groups express outrage over racist police brutality

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(JTA) Jewish groups are expressing outrage over the death of George Floyd, a black man killed last week by a Minneapolis police officer who has subsequently been charged with second-degree murder, and solidarity with the sweeping national protests that have followed.
by PHILISSA CRAMER | Jun 04, 2020

T’ruah, a social-justice organisation of rabbis, issued a statement on 27 May after the first night of protests in Minneapolis:

“This week, the divine image is diminished as we mourn the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. This is yet one more tragic example of the racist violence too often perpetuated by police officers who are charged with protecting all of us, not only some of us. We again face the reality that people of colour in our country live in fear that encounters with law enforcement will result in serious injury or death.

“We say once again: black lives matter. And we commit to creating a country that lives by this statement.”

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an organisation working with 130 local groups across the United States (US), tweeted an image of two dozen black men, women and in one case, a child, who have been killed by police officers.

The chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, connected George Floyd’s death to “an explosion of racist murders and hate crimes” across the US.

“We stand in solidarity with the black community as it yet again is subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system. While it’s a necessary first step in the pathway towards justice that former officer Derek Chauvin was taken into custody yesterday, it’s simply not enough. Based on the horrifying cell phone footage that has rightfully outraged Americans across the country, it’s clear that the three other former officers who participated in Mr Floyd’s death need to be held responsible for their actions to the fullest extent of our legal system. The Hennepin County district attorney and local investigators must do everything in their power to ensure that the wheels of justice turn swiftly. As an organisation committed to fighting all forms of hate, we know that this brutal death follows an explosion of racist murders and hate crimes across the US. As an agency that has stood for justice and fair treatment to all since our founding in 1913, we know that this has occurred at a time when communities of colour have been reeling from the disproportionate health impacts and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. In short, systemic injustice and inequality calls for systemic change. Now.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, reiterated his group’s commitment to ongoing action:

“The national rage expressed about the murder of Mr Floyd reflects the depth of pain over the injustice that people of colour – and particularly black men – have been subjected to throughout the generations. In recent months, we have seen, yet again, too many devastating examples of persistent systemic racism leading to the deaths not only of Mr Floyd, but other precious souls, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

“We remember others before them: Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Oscar Grant. Philando Castile. Walter Scott. Terrence Crutcher. Samuel Dubose. Michael Brown. The list feels endless, and so too is our despair. But as we recite the mourner’s kaddish for them all, we say now, again, we will not sit idly by.

“Our country simply cannot achieve the values of “justice for all” to which it aspires until we address ongoing racism in all sectors and at all levels of society. We remain in solidarity and action with the NAACP’s [National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People’s] urgent #WeAreDoneDying campaign, whose policy demands address areas of criminal justice, economic justice, healthcare, and voting, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on black Americans.”

Keshet, a group that advocates for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) Jews, expressed solidarity with black leaders.

“For the past two days, the Jewish community observed Shavuot, a holiday rooted in learning and action that commemorates when the Jewish people were given the Torah. The Talmud teaches that anyone who destroys one life has destroyed an entire universe. The systemic racism that allows black people to be murdered with impunity is destroying our world.

“As we work to advance equality and justice for LGBTQ Jews, we take seriously the need to build a world in which people of all races and ethnicities can live in safety; a world in which the bodies of black, brown, trans, and queer people are treated with dignity and respect. Keshet stands in solidarity with black leaders in the Keshet community and beyond whose wisdom and insights are instrumental in building a just and equitable future. We vow to voice our outrage and demand justice. #BlackLivesMatter.”

Sheila Katz, the executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), said, “We will not remain silent. As a national organisation made up of more than 100 000 advocates in communities around the country, including Minnesota, we are outraged and devastated by the murder of George Floyd. Mr Floyd was murdered by multiple police officers who held him down with their knees, however the underlying cause of his death is systemic racism. It’s both unacceptable and exhausting that in 2020, we still need to insist over and over again: black lives matter.

Through legislative reform, local activism, and by educating NCJW advocates, we will make sure each individual we engage helps to end the toxic culture of racism that permeates our country. For now, it’s important to support black and brown communities and the leaders spearheading the peaceful, anti-racist responses unfolding. Together, we will make sure the memory of George Floyd will be for a blessing.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative and Masorti rabbis, called for sweeping changes to policing in America.

“We join in the collective call for peace and reflection during civil unrest, but understand that to achieve this end, we must act. For these reasons, the Rabbinical Assembly calls on legislators at the national, state, and local levels to fundamentally change their approach to law enforcement and the justice system so that they serve and protect all Americans, regardless of race nor ethnicity. We encourage our own members to reach out to other communities, to Jews of colour, as well as to local law enforcement to help lead and shape these endeavours within the community.

“United in purpose, we will dismantle the systemic racism all too embedded still within American law enforcement and its justice system. The firing – and we hope prosecution – of the four Minneapolis police officers involved in this one egregious murder is a necessary step, but it cannot be the only action against structural injustices that have plagued generations and continue to this day. We must forever strive for a free and just society for all people.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Chana Meira Katz 05 Jun
    As a South African living in LA, I found this article to be one sided. Yes, I agree, we should not tolerate any form of racism, but let us not forget Antisemitism is a form of racism too! Where were all these Jewish groups last Sunday when we, in LA woke up to our Shuls graffitied, our businesses looted and broken glass on the streets reminiscent of Kristalnacht?
    Where were these groups when we were scrubbing our schools clean of "F- the Jews!"? (Courtesy of these "peaceful protests") Are these groups helping our fund for all the businesses - already struggling from Covid restrictions, who now lost thousands if not millions of dollars to looting?
    Let us not forget that Jewish Lives Matter too.

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