By Ben Sales | JTA and Eric Schucht
More than 800 rabbis, including the leaders of three major denominations, signed a statement in support of peaceful protest against racism and in memory of George Floyd.
The statement invoked Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, an iconic Jewish civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It was written and distributed by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, a political advocacy organization that has a long history of civil rights activism.
“Mr. Floyd was a victim of the nation’s long history of brutality against people of color, and particularly Black men,” the statement reads. “Protests are a just response to all-too-familiar anger, frustration, and pain. I stand for the right to peaceful protest and call on our nation’s law enforcement and elected officials not to interfere with this bedrock First Amendment expression.”
Among the signers are Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Hara Person, chief executive of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, chief executive of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly; and Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president of Reconstructing Judaism.
On June 8, more than 50 Washington-area clergy, including some 20 rabbis, released a letter calling for for national leaders, Mayor Muriel Bowser, the D.C. Council, and all elected officials to support the Black Lives Matter international human rights movement.
“Now is the time for us to dismantle the racialized policing in this country,” the letter reads. “It is not acceptable to keep knees on the necks of people of color. We have united to express – first of all – our grief, love, and support for the family of George Floyd and families who over the years have been directly impacted by the fatal consequences of police brutality – and second, to say enough is, and has been for a long time, enough.”
The letter includes a list of eight demands regarding police reforms.
1. Declaring racism a public health emergency.
2. Convictions for all four police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd.
3. Revising police policies for the use of potentially lethal force.
4. Disinvesting additional Metropolitan Police Department funds and reinvesting them into schools, community centers and youth programs.
5. Requiring police personal to live in the community in which they serve.
6. Hiring high school graduates of color without the requirement of either an Associates’s degree or military experience.
7. Identifying injustices that afflict the incarcerated including excessive periods in solitary confinement.
8. Working toward providing reparations for African Americans for slavery.
The letter also calls out President Donald Trump for his June 1 photo op in front of St. John’s Church, where protestors were violently cleared from Lafayette Square by police.
The letter ends by encouraging people to go out to the polls and vote in November while exercising precautions against COVID-19.
Eric Schucht is a staff writer for Washington Jewish Week, another Mid-Atlantic Media publication.