Protest

Phoenix protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Sunday marked the fourth night of protests in downtown Phoenix. It is among many cities across the nation where people have gathered to demonstrate frustration and anger over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Monday, May 25.

Jewish organizations in Greater Phoenix condemned Floyd’s death and pledged to stand by the black community.

“The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix joins other communities across the nation in expressing our grief and outrage over the killing of George Floyd,” said Marty Haberer, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix.

“We join all who mourn the loss of Mr. Floyd’s life. May his memory be for a blessing to his family and all those who loved him. We deplore the deaths of countless others who have lost their lives because of hate, racism and bigotry. We stand in solidarity with our friends in the black community to fight for equality and the rights of all people to live without fear.”

“People of color in America are terrified, and rightly so,” said Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash and founder of Arizona Jews for Justice. “As Jews, we stand in solidarity against acts of police brutality that fatally discriminate against black people. We stand against violent tactics that lead to blood in the streets. We reject acts of violence and pray for national stability, peace, and, ultimately, justice.”

Arizona Jews for Justice will join over a dozen national Jewish organizations to host a virtual rally in solidarity with the black community on Thursday, June 4, at 5:30 p.m.

“We hope the community will join our national online rally in solidarity with people of color who are really hurting right now,” said Eddie Chavez Calderon, campaign organizer for Arizona Jews for Justice. “Now is the time to come together to heal our communities.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Jewish Community Relations Council is reaching out and supporting community partners, said Executive Director Paul Rockower.

“The Jewish Community Relations Council was horrified by the killing of George Floyd,” Rockower said. “We have reached out to our partners in the African American community to share our sympathy and support. We are working with community partners across the valley to try to create dialogue and restore peace in our area.”

Around 130 organizations, including the JCRC of Greater Phoenix, signed the Statement of Solidarity issued by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

“We, the undersigned, are outraged at the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers,” the statement read. “We stand in solidarity with the black community that have for far too long been targeted by police and have suffered rampant racism and unfair and uneven applications of the law.”

The statement also called for investigating and holding accountable law enforcement officers involved, for a sweeping reform to law enforcement and the criminal justice system and joining forces with the black community and other Americans to work toward change.

Keisha McKinnor, assistant regional director at the Anti-Defamation League Arizona, said that the ADL stands by the black community and the protestors.

“We fully support and stand with the black community against the tragedies, not only what has happened with George Floyd in Minneapolis, but we’re talking Breonna Taylor, we’re talking Ahmaud Arbery — just the racism and systemic racism that has been going on for really two centuries,” McKinnor said. “ADL stands by the black community and people of color who’ve been subjected to this pain and suffering of a racist and unjust system.”

The National Council for Jewish Women Arizona also condemned the killing of George Floyd.

“NCJWAZ shares the grief, anguish, outrage and desperation over the murder of George Floyd and the legacy of systematic racism, oppression and injustice that ignore the humanity of communities of color,” said Civia Tamarkin, president of the NCJWAZ.

Local rabbis addressed the tragedy in their weekly messages to their

congrgations.

Rabbi Jeremy Schneider of Temple Kol Ami spoke in a video message on Saturday, May 30, about the need to reach out and build bridges between communities, to acknowledge the problem of racism and to say the names of victims out loud.

“We must put out this message of human dignity, and it starts here with us,” Schneider said. “The second step is to force yourself to watch those videos and take to your heart and your soul the struggle that George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery represent. If we don’t watch them, it’s too easy to ignore it, to forget about it, to act like isn’t happening, to stay in our bubble.”

Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel sent an email to his congregation on Monday, June 1, sharing his experience attending virtual services led by Pastor Terry Mackey at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church on Sunday.

“Pastor Mackey is telling us that the African American community has been crying to be heard, but their cry is falling on deaf ears. For a people whose central prayer is Shema — Hear O Israel, we should be pretty good listeners. Can we hear Pastor Mackey?” Linder said. “To members of Temple Solel, the greater Jewish community and all people of good will, look for opportunities on the horizon for us to see and hear our brothers and sisters in the African American community with new eyes and ears.” JN

(1) comment

sturgel

In the last few days I have seen numerous messages from Jewish communal professionals, Rabbis, synagogues and other Jewish organizations in our community expressing their sadness, concern and even outrage at the events surrounding the murder of George Floyd. As more of these messages appear more seem to follow. It is as though no one or no organization wants to be seen as ignoring the horror of the murder of George Floyd or the havoc that has been unleashed across the nation. I do not for a moment believe that any of these messages are not well-meaning or disingenuous. I believe they come from the hearts of those who are expressing their feelings. But as nice as these messages are what is needed is more action to accompany these public statements. I don't want these well-meaning messages to be seen like the expressions of "thoughts and prayers" that are sent following so many school shootings. We need more than thoughts and prayers and messages of condolence and sadness.

On March 21, 1965 Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walked arm in arm with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. across the Edmund Pettis Bridge from Selma to Montgomery. When he was asked "Did you find time to pray when you were in Selma?" Heschel responded " I prayed with my feet". Heschel knew and felt at his core that a public statement of support for the civil rights leaders and the marches of predominantly black folks wasn't enough. He knew and he felt that he needed to heed his own internal call to action. And that is precisely what is needed today.

The Jewish community has known the pain of being marginalized, discriminated against, and murdered just for being who they are. The historical relationship between American Jews and the African American community which was once so strong has been an alliance that has diminished over the years. Now is the time for Jews to step up and show with individual and collective deeds and actions that we are more than sympathetic but we are willing to appear arm and arm with our black brothers and sisters to share their suffering and help bring unity to the need for universal human rights and equality.

Whatever we do, however we act, wherever we show up we all need to be Heschel today.

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