Many Jews react to strong, visceral issues by saying, “We get it in the kishkes.” The murder of George Floyd is truly one of those issues, what the secular community would call a gut punch.

Police brutality toward communities of color is an issue that the Jewish community needs to feel in those kishkes.

Strategic communications focus on how you share messages with target audiences: how you reach those that you desire to hear you; how you convey their message back to your own respective base audience.

As it happened, I was on a Zoom call organized by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the NAACP on the same day that the Floyd story broke. Immediately, the Phoenix JCRC reached out to the JCRC of Minnesota and the Dakotas so we could share their statement on the affair. We did so both online, and directly with our partners in leadership in the Phoenix African American community, as well as expressing our support directly with them. We also issued a brief statement of our own.

Shortly after, the JCPA organized a statement of solidarity that we were proud to sign onto, along with over 130 Jewish organizations across the country. We shared this far-reaching statement as well with local African American leadership, and worked to place the statement in their newspaper, the Arizona Informant.

In turn, we posted on social media op-eds, statements and press conferences from our partners in the black community leadership to amplify their voices in the Jewish community. We also posted resources on how to support the black community during these difficult times.

It was heartening to see the flurry of statements released by our Jewish community and know that this tragedy resonated broadly and sparked a desire to express collective outrage.

In brighter days past, the JCRC had worked with partners including the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church and a number of area synagogues (Temple Solel and Temple Kol Ami; Congregation Beth Israel and Temple Emanuel) to put on events connecting the black and Jewish communities through music, food, culture and holiday cheer. In this age of COVID-19, such direct connections are not possible, but the JCRC is still working to create and sanctify virtual space to offer for dialogue and discussion.

We have worked with a number of local Jewish organizations to sponsor discussions with black community leaders on systemic racism. On your behalf, we will continue to help facilitate these difficult conversations, as well as work with our partners at the Arizona Faith Network to create community gatherings around faith and racial justice.

Meanwhile, the JCRC partners with a diverse coalition here in Arizona that connects across different faith, ethnic and political lines to bring about meaningful criminal justice reform in our state. Many in the Jewish community proudly look back to the black-Jewish coalition around the civil rights movement; criminal justice reform is our modern day civil rights struggle.

The JCRC will continue to connect with the black community to express our solidarity, and we will continue to find ways to turn those sentiments of support into concrete actions. JN

Paul Rockower is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix.

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