JCUA Demands Action for Black Lives

Categories: Black-Jewish Relations, JCUA Statement

The unconscionable murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis exposed once again the police brutality and white supremacy Black people in the United States experience every day. Floyd’s story echoes those of Breonna Taylor, Laquan McDonald, and countless others whose lives have ended in tragedy because of racist, state-sanctioned violence.

Meanwhile, close to three months into the coronavirus pandemic, during which Black and Latinx communities have faced the brunt of the impact and suffering from the pandemic, our governments have not responded with anywhere near sufficient relief.

So Americans are taking to the streets to call for decisive action against police brutality and systemic racism. The largely non-violent protests have collided with an overmilitarized police force and an influx of opportunists looking to intensify the chaos. The unrest, violence, and destruction signal that the existing systems of oppression and inequality have reached a tipping point. We must take immediate action to dismantle the racist systems that jeopardize Black lives.

For decades, JCUA has mobilized the region’s Jewish community to pursue social justice in partnership with Chicago’s diverse communities. Our nearly 2,000 members and thirteen Congregation Partners represent the diversity of the Jewish community in Chicago, consisting of White Jews and Jews of Color. Though it is hard work, we are committed to transforming our society. It is the work we are called to do, as individuals, as a Jewish community, and as Chicagoans.

Each of us must look inward, confront internalized racism, and learn new ways of being in the world. White Jews must make a sustained commitment to anti-racism and allyship. JCUA creates such opportunities for our members through Racial Justice training, and our White Racial Justice Working Group gathers white members to explore how their actions and decisions can embody the principles of racial justice. JCUA’s Kol Or Caucus  gathers Jews of Color from across Chicago, creating a space for learning, sharing and taking on a leadership role in our organizing work. We invite White Jews and Jews of Color into this work.

[Read a joint statement published by members of JCUA’s White Racial Justice Working Group and Kol Or Caucus for Jews of Color]

We also must come to terms with the fact that white supremacy exists within the Jewish community and manifests itself in the way we exclude and belittle the voices and experiences of Jews of Color. White Jews must commit to the difficult but necessary work of creating, repairing, and deepening relationships of trust across the Jewish community. The leadership and experiences of Jews of Color are essential to our community and our social justice work.

We must remain wary of those who would use this moment to sow antisemitism. We see right-wing voices trying to denigrate the protestors by accusing figures like George Soros of funding them. This is an all-too typical antisemitic conspiracy theory, deployed to distract from the will of the people. And it is the type of rhetoric that has gotten Jews murdered. We must not let right-wing voices push Black voices away from the center of public consciousness.

Illustration by @Shirien.Creates

Finally, we must sustain collective action to transform our systems of policing in Chicago. Our work to implement the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability ordinance will shift power from police to Chicagoans by creating a civilian oversight committee that will hold police accountable and rebuild relationships of trust between police and residents.

Our GAPA coalition has worked to create meaningful mechanisms for community members to have a voice over policing in Chicago. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot has stalled to pass the ordinance. Lightfoot says she “applauds the vast majority of protestors for fighting for lasting and systemic change.” Now is the time for the mayor to back up her words by passing the GAPA ordinance.

The challenging times will continue. At this painful moment in our city, we are only as strong as the people — ALL of the people who live here. When those who are entrusted to enforce the law abdicate our trust again and again, there is no trust, only suffering and destruction. Racism, violence, the pandemic, and a lack of leadership at the highest levels are compounding the situation. It is up to us to help repair this world. The Jewish community must come together to bring about transformational change.

Judy Levey, JCUA Executive Director
Rabbi Fred Reeves, JCUA Board President

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