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OJC Statement on Murder of George Floyd and Our Way Forward

The promises of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution rise from the simple, profound premise at the very beginning of the Hebrew Bible.  Humanity is seen as the Tzelem Elokim, the Godly image. The murder of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white Minneapolis police officer has shaken our country to its foundations.   It shouts to Americans, of any color and every race, that our work is not done.

The Jewish community’s longstanding commitment to equality under the law is born from our tradition’s commandment to treat everyone equally, from citizen to stranger, whether longtime resident or newcomer, as well as from our own experiences with discrimination.  

We recognize our communal experience as a minority faith and community is not the same as Americans of Color, even as we realize that Jews of Color can face the same issues as the broader non-White community.  We also recognize that despite our community’s historic partnership with African Americans in advancing the cause of Civil Rights, there is more we can do, and do together.  

All Americans have the same rights.  Our work now is to ensure the prophetic vision that animated America’s Founding Fathers is equally enjoyed by every American.

That will only be realized if we work together to advance the causes of equality and liberty.  Some of this will be done through legislation and administrative actions in the public policy arena. Some will occur in the workplace and in our homes, neighborhoods, and houses of worship.  

In this context we look to the most well-known prayer in the Jewish tradition. Sh’ma has a dual meaning: to listen and to hear. It is long past time society, and we, as a Jewish community, not merely listen to but also hear the African American community.  We must try to hear what is said as well as what is left unsaid.  We must come together with open minds and open hearts to try an understand these issues as they see them, and to empathize with their pain as they feel it.  

Beginning these conversations anew will help us build off them to concrete actions, which we can only determine together.  We already know each of our communities is deeply committed to and invested in advocacy advancing election integrity and voting rights, equitable education reform, creative and cutting edge workforce development, combating hate crimes and terrorism, and crafting wraparound solutions that come at these issues in holistic, interconnected ways.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has noted, each of us can speak to the other face-to-face; or, we can work together, side-by-side.  Ohio Jewish Communities, and our federations and agencies across Ohio are ready to have these conversations and to do this work at the Statehouse, on Capitol Hill, and in our homes.

Once again, we are in this together, Ohio.  As before, we will build our shared future, as one.  

All Americans have the same rights.  Our work now is to ensure the prophetic vision that animated America’s Founding Fathers is equally enjoyed by every American.

July 2020 | Howie Beigelman, Executive Director, Ohio Jewish Communities