East Midwood Jewish Center Statement on the Killing of George Floyd

For non-black Americans, the murder of George Floyd has brought to national and international attention the second-class citizen status of black Americans in the United States. It would be impossible to list the number of black Americans who have been targeted by police, by racist vigilantes, and by non-black citizens in this country only because of the color of their skin. George Floyd’s horrific murder by a Minneapolis police officer started a fire that erupted from coals that have been smoldering for generations. His killing became a symbol of the kind of humiliating interactions that black Americans have with white America hundreds or even thousands of times every day.

EMJC stands proudly against racism of any kind. Dating back to the days of Rabbi Harry Halpern, EMJC has stood for racial equality and the recognition that all people deserve to be treated the same without reference to race, faith, color, or sexual orientation. We stand committed to being part of a solution to the problem of systemic racism in our country and in our world. Our tradition teaches that all humans are descended from a single ancestral couple “due to the importance of maintaining peace among people, so that one person will not say to another: My ancestors are greater than yours.” (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5).  

Over 20 years ago, EMJC, in partnership with Our Lady of Refuge RC Church, founded the Brooklyn Interfaith Coalition. This important project crossed lines of faith, class, and race in an effort to realize the words of the Mishna in real-time. The conversation that started with Rabbi Halpern and led us to the Interfaith Coalition needs to continue. 

There is much work yet to do before our nation and our world begin to heal. Police reforms are necessary in the short term; sweeping systemic societal reforms are necessary in the long term. EMJC commits to taking a community leadership role as we attempt to understand and dismantle the racism that plagues our country.

To this end, EMJC is creating a social justice committee that over the coming months will work to establish the role EMJC can play in shaping a more just New York and an America that works for all people. The social justice committee will work to strengthen EMJC’s relationships with other local racial justice organizations, create forums to listen, and learn anti-hate and anti-racism strategies. 

Black Americans and Jews, in different ways, have shared the experience of racism and oppression. EMJC says to our black members, friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans: We stand with you as allies.

The phrase No Justice, No Peace is not a threat – it is a statement of fact. Let us turn to the work that is before us.