Greater Baton Rouge Jewish Community Open Letter to Our Black Neighbors

Our shared history holds within it, moments of powerful partnership between our communities, and it also holds moments of estrangement and points of pain. In full awareness of that complicated history, and for those members of our community whose overlapping identities – Black and Jewish – connect us to each other, we write this letter to express our solidarity at this difficult time.

We abhor the recent killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and detest the officers’ delayed arrests. We abhor the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. We have not forgotten the abhorrent killing of Alton Sterling in our beloved city four years ago, and we continue to mourn his loss.

We mourn alongside you the Black and Brown lives lost to racially motivated violence and despise the institutionalized racism that has continually shielded those responsible.

We see you, we hear you, we love you, and we stand with you in the conviction that Black Lives Matter. We will strive to be allies with you as our country faces this moment of reckoning, much too long in coming.

The watchword of our faith is Shema or listen. In that spirit, we commit to listening with open hearts, in the coming days, months, and years, to the voices, truths, and feelings of our Black neighbors. Furthermore, our Torah teaches that we must not stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds, and so we also commit to acting, intentionally and swiftly, to create real and lasting change in our local community and our nation that will dismantle the systems of white supremacy that surround us all as Americans.

Specifically, we commit to:

--seek a deeper understanding of our history and how generations of Black trauma directly relate to the struggles of the present day. We

will attempt to fully understand the discrepancy between who we say we are as a nation and who we truly are as regards civil and human rights.

--be more courageous in our efforts to prevent and respond to future acts of racial and other discrimination emanating from any source. We will

condemn race-based hate and bigotry against Black and Brown members of our society whenever and wherever we see it, even and especially when we find it within our own community.

--support meaningful public policy that addresses the myriad of issues that plague minority communities, including the wide healthcare and economic disparities that have become so apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will advocate, in particular, for much needed policing reform measures and will seek to be strong coalition partners in the public sphere.

Our shared prophetic tradition instructs us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and with one another. We will harken to this and other prophetic voices that call us to reject complicity, inaction, and indifference and to put our values into practice with every step and with every breath. We vow to do our best to make eternal the moments of powerful partnership that our communities have formed at critical times throughout the history of our country to fight bigotry, racism, and hate.

With heartfelt empathy for the pain of this moment, with high hopes for the chance to build a better tomorrow, and in solidarity,

- The Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge

- Beth Shalom Synagogue

- Congregation B’nai Israel

- Temple Shalom in Lafayette

- Hillel at LSU

- Hadassah of Baton Rouge

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