Last Tuesday night, the Board of Directors voted in support of Mount Zion Temple becoming a signatory to a letter in support of Black Lives Matter. The letter, which was crafted by a collective of Jewish organizations, has over 600 different synagogues and organizations as signatories including both the Reform and Conservative Movements.
We thank the Mount Zion congregants who shared their feedback with us. We recorded all sixty-one comments and supplied a summary of the feedback to the Board prior to the vote. Fifty-three people supported Mount Zion becoming a signatory, while six opposed; two congregants asked questions but did not state a position. The Board vote was 83% in favor of signing on to the letter. These numbers show that Mount Zion states publicly and unequivocally that Black lives matter.
The Board conversation was fully respectful of all the expressed concerns and opposition to Mount Zion signing the letter. These issues were discussed at length prior to the vote. Everyone agreed with the statement that “Black Lives Matter.” As human beings made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, our Jewish values are clear. However, concerns were raised that the letter - which we could not edit - indicated support for the Black Lives Matter Movement organization. For some “Movement” meant that we needed to address the 2016 platform of the umbrella organization “Movement for Black Lives” which included pernicious language about Israel, which Rabbi Spilker addressed in 2016. For others, supporting a particular organization meant signing onto Black Lives Matter’s strategies and tactics, including defunding the police. Although the Movement for Black Lives has removed much of its critique of Israel from its most current platform and Black Lives Matter as an organization sticks to domestic issues, some directors and congregants remain concerned. To be clear, the people who expressed opposition acknowledged the need for racial justice and for a stand against racism; the concern was with Black Lives Matters, the movement.
The majority in support of signing on to the letter expressed their belief that it was our moral obligation as Jews to support this key moment in U.S. history.
Mount Zion remains one community filled with diverse people with equally diverse positions. Signing the letter acknowledges unequivocally that Black lives do matter. It sends a signal to our immediate neighbors and to the nation that we stand in solidarity with other Jewish organizations and leaders in an ongoing effort for racial justice. What the next steps will be is up to us.
We hope you will continue to speak and listen with one another about this important matter. The Tzedek Committee is leading a Tzedek Summer 2020 Campaign animated by one-to-one conversations, and racial justice is one of the topics. If you are interested in having a conversation with one of the twenty leaders, please contact co-chairs Vic Rosenthal (email@example.com) or Diana Dean (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Last Thursday evening marked the beginning of Elul, our month of reflection and preparation for the High Holy Days. One tradition is to recite Psalm 27, which concludes “Look to Adonai;/ be strong and of good courage! / O look to Adonai!” We move forward as a strong community willing to participate in courageous conversations. May the month to come be filled with meaning and lead to actions to repair our hearts and our world.
Michael Kuhne, President
Adam Stock Spilker, Rabbi