“How were the Ten Commandments arranged? Five on one tablet and five on the other. On one tablet it was written: I am the Eternal your God, and opposite to it, on the other tablet, was written: You shall not murder. This means that one who sheds blood is considered as having diminished the divine image.”
Mechilta d’Rabbi Yishmael, Tractate Bachodesh
This week, the divine image is diminished as we mourn the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. This is yet one more tragic example of the racist violence too often perpetuated by police officers, who are charged with protecting all of us–not only some of us. We again face the reality that people of color in our country live in fear that encounters with law enforcement will result in serious injury or death.
We say once again: Black Lives Matter. And we commit to creating a country that lives by this statement.
We send condolences and strength to George Floyd’s family and friends, and call for the officers responsible for his death to be tried on murder charges.
We condemn the use of tear gas and other violent means against those protesting his death last night. This response by police stands in stark contrast to the images of police simply standing still, as armed white protesters occupied the Minnesota State House earlier this month, and offers just one more example of the over-policing of communities of color.
“When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say: I will go to my home and I will eat and drink, and peace be upon you, my soul.” (Talmud Taanit 11a)
We must not look away from these unjust acts of state violence, especially at a time when we are consumed by concern over COVID-19. Indeed, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color is part of the same legacy of slavery and systemic racism that leads to state violence against black and brown people.
We also send strength and solidarity to Congregation Shir Tikvah in Minneapolis, led by T’ruah co-chair Rabbi Michael Latz, in the wake of swastikas and other antisemitic, white nationalist slogans graffitied near the building. Many members of the synagogue heard the news while standing in solidarity with the family, friends, and community of George Floyd. The confluence of this antisemitic incident with racist violence reminds us yet again that our struggles against bias of all kinds must be linked, and that none of us will be free until all of us are free.
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of 2,000 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.