Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) mourn the death of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police last week. As our hearts are broken yet again by the images and stories of the unjustifiable loss of innocent black and brown lives at the hands of law enforcement, the words of the psalmist ring bitterly familiar: “ad matai — how long will this go on?! … How long will you feed your people tears as their daily bread, making them drink great measures of tears?” (Psalm 80:5-6). This injustice is not just the fault of a few bad cops but of a badly broken policing system.
On Erev Shavuot, we disseminated a special “el maleh rachamim” memorial prayer for victims of racial violence to be recited during the yizkor service. How many holidays must we continue to add names to our list of martyrs of racial injustice? We will not stop remembering Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Mike Brown, Alton Sterling, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Delrawn Small, Sandra Bland and now George Floyd, along with too many others.
The blatant display of systemic racism that we all saw in the horrible murder of George Floyd hits all of us differently depending on our own race and life experience. But it is clear that these events have exposed a basic truth about our country. White supremacy is built into the fabric of American society, and the deep anger that is being expressed all around us has been festering for decades, if not centuries. This is one of the many reasons that our Tikkun Olam Commission, a joint venture of Reconstructing Judaism and the RRA, has recently committed to working on racial justice.
We must dismantle white supremacy now if we are to have any chance at building a more just and equitable world for all people. For all people - because we are committed to the core Jewish value that all people are created betzelem elokim — in the image of the divine — and are therefore equally deserving of full human dignity and safety. But also specifically for our people — the Jews of Color within the Reconstructionist movement and beyond who face the oppression, pain, and fear of living under white supremacy ever day.