To our wonderful congregation,
Congregation Shir Libeynu affirms
that Black and Indigenous Lives Matter. Our hearts break for the families of those lost to racialized police violence, and for Black lives disrupted by racism, inside and outside of Jewish communities. As George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet's names fade from the news cycle, we think of the wisdom of our ancestors in Pirkei Avot: "It is not on you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it" (2:21). Our congregation supports the fight for racial justice not only while racism makes headlines, but always. That's why we are offering a way to contribute to lasting change today.
Black activists in Toronto have made their demands clear: defund the police and reinvest those funds in communities. While this idea may be new for many in our communities, it is an idea with a long history. If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the idea, there are some recommended resources from Black authors, activists, and journalists at the bottom of this email.
We have joined a campaign of Toronto Jewish institutions that want to act in solidarity with Black activists and communities. We are starting with support for the
Toronto Prisoner’s Rights’ Project
's demands to city councillors. Our goal is to send
500 emails from Jewish community members, supporting their demands
(10% of their total goal re: number of emails). In addition, our campaign's Toronto-wide goal is
20 calls to city councillors from Jewish community leaders.
Our own Board president, Karen Lior, will be among those 20 calls.
The campaign asks city councillors to do three things:
To never again vote to increase the police services budget;
To propose and implement a cut to the police services budget to support community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in three ways:
In excessive force cases, withhold pensions and do not rehire officers involved
Require police officers to be liable for misconduct settlements
Reduce the size of the police force and stop sending armed/uniformed police officers on mental health and poverty-related calls,
To prioritize the expansion of community-led health and safety initiatives over future financial investments into policing.
HOW TO HELP
To support this campaign, please do two things:
1. Two options:
A. 30-second action: Use the
Defund the Police Email Zap Tool
. All you do is enter your name, email, and postal code, and t
he email is sent to your city councillor automatically. This is an easy way to be involved if you're not sure where to start!
B. 5-minute action: Write a unique, personal introduction and conclusion for the same demands and email them to your city councillor (find your representative
). City councillors may filter out template emails, so this option is more effective.
2. Reply to this email letting the Shir Libeynu Board know you've done it, so we can track progress towards our goal.
The deadline for this campaign is June 29
On June 29th, city council will be voting on a motion introduced by Josh Matlow and Amy Wong-Tan (
to reduce the police budget by at least 10% for 2021, as well as increasing transparency and accountability. You can read the full text of the motion
City council’s approval of this motion will save lives.
Reducing the police budget may seem like a surprising solution. It is important to remember that budgets for other essential services (schools, health care, public transit, shelters) get dramatically slashed all the time. For example, did you know that homeless shelters, which are already in capacity crisis, might have to reduce beds by 50% if the current city plan is approved?
There are so many reasons activists are calling to defund the police, backed up by significant data. If you are not familiar with how reducing police budgets in order to reallocate resources to communities could look, or why so many Black activists think this is critically necessary, please read the articles below as part of the commitment to listening to and learning from Black people that so many of us are taking more seriously than ever these days:
(If clicking on links doesn’t work, copy and paste)
Do I believe we can have a police free future in our lifetime?
nard (Canadian author of "Policing Black Lives"):
Here’s why Black Lives Matter wants to defund the police in Canada and what that means
(a summary quotes from many Black authors)
Thank you for joining us in this important campaign!
The Shir Libeynu Board