“I CAN’T BREATHE.” These words, the final gasp of a Black man dying at the hands of a police officer in the United States of America, reverberate in our consciousness. Today we say the name of George Floyd as we condemn the killing and call for justice. But his name is far from the first, or the only. We mourn the loss of lives resulting from racism and violence, most recently including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Aaron Bailey, and tragically, so many others over the course of so many years and generations. And we continue to demand full and fair investigations into all incidents that may have been motivated by racial prejudices in our community, including the recent death of Dreasjon Reed.
The Indiana Jewish community stands in solidarity with the Black community. We stand in the fight for equity, justice, and the right of all people, regardless of the color of their skin, to live without fear and to thrive. We stand with peaceful protesters demanding change.
AT THIS PIVOTAL MOMENT, THE JEWISH COMMUNITY:
• Hears and honors the cries from members of the Black community expressing anger, pain, loss, fear, and frustration.
• Recognizes that for hundreds of years, the African American experience has been fraught with unconscionable violence, bigotry, and prejudice.
• Acknowledges that there remain vast and shameful disparities between Black and White Americans with respect to health, education, poverty, housing, employment, criminal justice, and civil rights.
• Accepts that we cannot be effective allies in the fight for racial justice without examining and processing our own histories and actions around racism and inclusion.
• Honors the special relationship between the Black and Jewish communities, including where our peoples’ stories, texts, and leaders have resonated with and inspired each other; where our struggles to battle discrimination, bigotry, and hate have strengthened each other; and where our active pursuit to secure and protect civil rights have been in concert with each other. We also recognize that there have been – and are – different experiences and opinions, sometimes significant.
WHAT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IS COMMITTED TO DOING:
• Our work on racial justice and equity will respect the leadership of the communities directly affected on these issues.
• We will offer our support by first listening to and learning from civic leaders, clergy, colleagues, neighbors, friends, and family in the Black community.
• We will do more to welcome, include, and amplify the voices of Jews of Color in our community in all the fields in which they are experts, not just on race, racism, and racial justice.
• We will educate ourselves and our community about the issues around race and justice, including the history, legacy, and present-day realities of the impact of systemic racism in this country.
• We will ensure that our Jewish community’s organizations have security policies that are equitable and safe for everyone that comes through our doors.
• We will continue to petition our elected leaders at all levels of government for laws and policies that address the disparities in civil rights, criminal justice, health, education, housing, poverty, and employment.
Our ancient Jewish texts and sages speak directly to us today, compelling us to act. We are commanded: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue!” and “Do not stand idly by while your neighbors’ blood is shed.” We are implored by the prophet Isaiah to “relieve the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow” and by the prophet Micah to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” While the calls to act are clear, the tasks at hand are daunting. Rabbi Tarfon teaches us that “we are not commanded to finish the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.”
We know undoing hundreds of years of racism is a generational undertaking. We will therefore work as long as it takes, both individually and communally, in public and in private, to advocate for a just society for all.