As protests continue across the U.S., many of us have become more than just silent witnesses to history. In dozens of communities across our area, families and individuals have been standing up and speaking out, expressing pain and sorrow over the senseless killing of another black man by police and the ongoing injustices that plague our country.
As a Jewish community, we cannot stand idly by.
Systemic racism – like the rising tide of anti-Semitism – is a virus that flourishes with passivity. Bigotry and racial injustice will not be defeated by standing silent. The words of our ancient Hebrew scriptures cry out to us: “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”
Those were the very words that inspired Jackie Levine, a South Orange wife, mother, and hero of our Jewish community to march in Montgomery, Alabama, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and picket Woolworth’s department store for refusing to serve blacks at their lunch counters.
Sixty years later, those words are driving even greater numbers of us to action whether by joining protests, donating money to black-led organizations working to dismantle racism, supporting black-owned businesses, registering voters, or simply opening a book to learn more about racism and the black experience in America.
Our Federation’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) is eager and committed to respond on a communal level.
Starting this Sunday, we will livestream the documentary “I Will Not Be Silent” about the life of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, one of the great leaders of the civil rights era, whose speech, delivered at the 1963 March on Washington, remains one of the most remarkable piece of American oratory. Then we will launch a three-part conversation on Racism in America on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. with Understanding Yesterday. A panel of distinguished rabbis, moderated by Cliff Kulwin, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple B’nai Abraham (the same synagogue where Rabbi Prinz had his pulpit), will discuss the current struggle for racial equality and how our Torah and traditions have given us the imperative, throughout history, to act in the face of injustice. Panelists include Rabbi Michael Satz of Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, Rabbi Rachel Marder of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, and Rabbi E. Samuel Klibanoff of Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston.
The second program in the series, Understanding Today, will help inform our understanding of racism and the present-day realities of being a black American. And in the third program, Moving Forward, we’ll learn about opportunities to contribute, engage, and volunteer. For those looking to deepen their understanding of these issues we’ve compiled a list of recommended reading and viewing materials.
The effort to combat injustice and intolerance requires participation from all of us. The work is vast and the journey is long. We are not obliged to complete the work but neither are we free to desist from it, according to Pirkei Avot. Join us, as we seek to heal our nation and create a country that lives up to its promise and aspiration of liberty and justice for all.
Sheri Goldberg, Chair
Community Relations Committee
Linda Scherzer Director
Community Relations Committee