Dear TBC family,
Like so many of you, I have spent the last week glued to the news watching the protests that have erupted in the wake of the murder of a yet another unarmed, African-American person. My heart and my spirit have grown heavier as report after report has shown protestors and journalists being met with
terrifying amounts of violence from the police
. I agree with my rabbinical organization, the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
who wrote in their May 31st statement, "Once again, the lethal reality of systemic racism has shown its evil face... [these deaths] add further to the already long list of extra-judicial executions of African-Americans in our country...Racist extra-judicial executions are an American epidemic, a blight that has continued because, time and again, perpetrators have not been brought to justice."
I know that we all want to help make our country more just, and I know that we are all asking ourselves, "What should I do to help?" For the answers to that question, we must listen to the communities that are most affected by the injustices that we are protesting.
African-American organizers, scholars, artists, poets, and leaders of all types- from both within and outside of the Jewish community- have already told the country how to begin addressing the consequences of centuries of systemic racism. It is the responsibility of white people to listen to their words and then to work to accomplish what has been asked of us.
I realize that the decision to act can feel even more difficult because our country and world are dealing with the dangers posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. I want to remind you that action can look like many different things- all of which are critically important. Now is the time to educate ourselves, donate to bail funds, call elected officials, investigate the status of police funding in our local communities, press school boards to review what is being taught in our schools, provide supplies for protests being organized by African-American community leaders, and more. There is no one way to take action, but whatever we do should be in service of the stated needs of POC and especially the African-American community.
Remember that many, many resources about how to be an effective ally already exist (I'm including the links to several of them at the end of this letter). It is our duty to pursue education, engage in self-reflection, and seek out opportunities to help- all without placing any additional emotional burden on the communities that are hurting the most right now. I encourage you to join me in reading as many of these guides as possible and then using our skills and resources in ways that will produce tangible results for the communities that are fighting for their rights and their lives.
Finally, it is important to say that the current crisis is the result of centuries of institutionalized, racist policies. Our country will not achieve justice in a few days or even a few weeks. But, as we look to the future, we must remember that seeking justice and speaking out against hatred is what we, as the Jewish people, have been commanded to do.
"Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof - Justice, justice you shall pursue."(Deuteronomy 16:18)
Rabbi Rachel Kay Bearman
Links to educational resources and opportunities for action:
- Data proves that together these eight policies can decrease police violence by 72%