It was a painfully difficult week as we watched protests and riots erupt across our country. Precipitated by the shocking and brutal murder of George Floyd, at the hands of the police, and other violence directed at Black Americans, people took to the streets to speak up and speak out loudly.
Over the course of the week, we heard from many caring and compassionate community members wanting to know how we as a Jewish community can help heal our world. We understand how helpless people may feel. We know people want to make a difference and we recognize we are all looking for guidance to make things better.
Our human nature is to try and fix things, quickly. There is not a quick fix for centuries of racism. There is hard and painful work that needs to be done, individually and communally.
As a Jewish community we must stand up to racism. We see how this disease has eroded the values and ideals on which our country stands. Our Jewish values, coupled with the ideology of this country, implore us to do something. The challenge is, what and how?
While we can and should act together as a community, each of us must also play an individual role in understanding the cause and effect of implicit bias and structural racism. We must be willing to look inward, in a very deep personal way, and learn about racism and how we unwittingly participate in systems and structures that support an untenable status quo.
If each of us, as Jewish community members, can take the time to learn and understand our personal relationship with racism, this is a good first step. Well-known author, lecturer and professor, Brené Brown wrote, “In order to empathize with someone fully, we must believe their experience as they see it, not how we imagine it to be.” As we delve into understanding racism, we must cast aside our own experiences and try to view the world through the eyes of the Black community.
We cannot deny that Jews have suffered and have been persecuted for centuries, but we need to understand racism and the suffering of the Black community, as understood by the Black community. Comparative suffering, when one feels the need to see one people’s suffering in the light of other people’s suffering, will only hurt all of us. Yes, of course Jews understand suffering, but our responsibility is to see the experience of racism in this country through the eyes and souls of the Black community. This is hard, and it requires deep introspective work.
In order to help all of us begin the process of understanding how we can make a difference, understand implicit bias and structural racism, personally and communally, the Levine Center to End Hate has put together a comprehensive list of resources, which you can find below.
Last, but certainly not least, you can make a difference by making your voice heard through voting. We all have the opportunity to engage with our political system as a tool for pursuing justice and repairing the world. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to vote by mail or to vote safely in person. Our Jewish Community Relations Council has compiled all the resources you need, including important dates and how to vote absentee, here.
Shabbat Shalom –