17. Upon me has your wrath passed, Your terrors put an end to me.
18. They surrounded me like water all the day, They enclosed me together.
Dear WJC Family,
I would not presume to know what it is to walk the streets of this country with dark skin. I cannot know what it is to live my life with the kind of considerations and calculations that people of color have to manage. Nor do I know the fear and anxiety of trying to raise my children to live safely in such a world.
What I do know is that the systematic racism that infects American culture, policy, economics, and yes, law enforcement must be addressed. When we see those signs that say, “I can’t breathe,” they are not only about George Floyd and Eric Garner and the literal squeezing of the life from their body. They are also describing life as a person of color in this country, whether in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic which has disproportionately impacted people of color, or in the face of the racism infecting our civic institutions. When I see those signs I am reminded of Psalm 88, our darkest and most fatalistic psalm. In verses 17 and 18 the psalmist explains what it is to live in fear and terror every day, to see every choice and option as leading to pain and injury. He compares it to being “surrounded by water all day.” Trapped and unable to breathe.
The Rabbinical Assembly, Jewish Theological Seminary, and the executive committee of the Westchester Board of Rabbis have each put out excellent statements. I back each statement wholeheartedly in their support for our sisters and brothers of color, their support for the police who protect us every day while also calling for real reform against police abuse of power and racism and condemnation of violence and looting of every kind. I encourage you to read them:
This message is a call to specific actions we learn from our Jewish texts and experience for addressing the ills highlighted in the above statements. I am calling on each of us to act and address these issues in our own local community. I recommend four actions we can take to make a difference and build community and coalition right here:
You can use the link in the image or if you prefer Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/862755750888006/
My friends, both the Amended Constitution of this great country and our own Torah call for all people to be treated equally and as a reflection of the divine image. Both demand that we now work for justice and equality and support those communities who are suffering the most from the inherent inequalities in some of our systems. Our history and our divine mission have prepared us to help in this moment. Let us not allow it to pass unmet.
Sending blessings of healing and hope for a better tomorrow,
Dear Westchester Jewish Community,
The murders of George Floyd this past week, Breonna Taylor in March, Ahmaud Arbery in February, and the other 1249 African American victims of police violence since 2015 reminds us that, until we recognize the image of God implanted within every human being and how each person is deserving of dignity and respect, our world will remain broken.
We extend our hands as allies in support of black men, women, and children and all who suffer from generations of racism, discrimination, and violence. We stand with you. We will not look away. We will listen to your stories with empathy and will amplify them until all Americans can live with dignity, equality, and safety. We commit to looking within to find our own flaws, not only striving to remove those flaws within ourselves but to remove them from within our society. We will be antiracists who work for policies, relationships, coalitions, and ideas that counter racism wherever it rears its ancient, ugly head.
We will lean into our Jewish values to join with all people of conscience to cry out in the face of racial injustice. We mourn with those of other faiths who yearn for peace and understanding. We pledge to partner with local civic and governmental groups to make real change. We beseech those moved to protest to do so nonviolently, in ways that lift up our highest shared ideals. And, we respect and appreciate the vast majority of law enforcement officials who work each day to make our nation safe for all who live within its borders.
The ancient rabbis asked, “Why did God create only one person, Adam?” They answered, “All people are descended from a single human being, Adam, so that no one can say, ‘My ancestor is worthier than yours.'”
May all in our society learn to live the truth of this teaching quickly and in our days.
With Peace and Blessings,
The Executive Committee of the Westchester Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Adam Baldachin
Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan
Rabbi Howard Goldsmith, Treasurer
Rabbi Daniel Gropper, President
Rabbi Evan Hoffman
Rabbi David Holtz, Immediate Past President
Rabbi Jason Nevarez