As described by the Jewish News, “In the wake of protests, local Jewish orgs show support for black community,” there has been a tremendous number of 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 on social media or are sent by emails, more seem surely to follow. It is as though no one or no organization wants to be seen as ignoring the horror of the murder of an unarmed man in Minneapolis or the havoc that his killing has 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 own feelings or those of the organizations they represent.

But as nice as these messages are, what is needed is more action to accompany these public statements. I do not want these well-meaning messages to be seen like the too often obligatory expressions of “thoughts and prayers” that are expressed following so many school shootings and other tragic and senseless killings. 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 famously, “I prayed with my feet.”

Heschel knew and passionately believed at his core that a public statement of support for the civil rights leaders and the marches of predominantly black folks was not 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 their individual and collective deeds and actions that we are more than sympathetic but that 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. JN

Stu Turgel is a broadcaster, blogger and nonprofit consultant in Scottsdale.

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