This is a blog that does not shy away from touchy subjects, that look to reveal injustice at its core, and I hope that is what I have been able to do with my past posts. With that being said, I have been spending days trying to figure out what to say about what is now the largest civil rights movement in the history of the world. I have a lot of opinions when it comes to most things and this subject is no exception; I also do not necessarily subscribe to all of the points that are at the core of this movement, and none of that matters. Right now, what matters is not what a Jewy white guy from the suburbs thinks, what matters is black lives. I could never begin to pretend to know what it is like to be a person of color in this country, therefore the best I can do is provide a Jewish perspective and explain to my mostly Semitic readership why it is imperative that every Jew speaks up and speaks out against injustice.
I talked a lot about where I felt systemic racism existed in my post “The Injustices of The American Justice System,” so go there if you wish to read more on that specifically. It is important for every Jew to speak up when it comes to this topic. As a historically marginalized group, the Jewish consciousness knows too well the dangers of a tyrannical government. It is clear that in the United States, the justice system that we hold so dearly is tyranny on black lives. I could say that we need to stand up for black lives because it could be us next, but that feels shallow. I think that we are obligated to speak up because as a culture that has been able to flourish under the freedom of the United States and Israel specifically, we have a duty to mankind to let black communities experience the same break from bondage and allow for the flourishing of their culture too. Seeing the prosperity of Israeli innovation in Tel Aviv it is clear that when groups of people are given room to breathe, great things happen.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said that in Selma, Alabama marching arm in arm with Dr. King, he “learned to pray with his feet.” The overwhelmingly Ashkenazi Jewish population in America sees no anti-semitism as a result of the color of their skin. For the majority of those who choose not to wear any religious clothing, they face no antisemitism for their appearance whatsoever. Essentially, I and many other white Jews have white privilege in America. It is the reason why I do not worry about getting pulled over, playing with toy guns in public, being out past a curfew, and so many other things. The American Jew needs to begin to see how and why his enjoyment of white privilege aids to the detriment of black freedom. The only way to fix this is to act. Go to a protest, tweet a hashtag, and most importantly, call out racism in your community with the same vigor and passion that the Jewish community fights antisemitism. It was amazing to see so many come out in support of Jewish pride marchings following a violent antisemitic attack in New York. If the vision is to repair the world, then every Jew that cared enough to speak out during those protests should be arm in arm with our black neighbors right now, that is how we will pray with our feet.
Many Jews want to step away from all of this for one reason: historically the stance of the official Black Lives Matter organization is pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist. With a protest in every US state and more than a dozen countries, it should be abundantly clear that BLM means much more than the title of an organization. It seems completely ludicrous to me that even a fragment of the Jewish community should end up on the wrong side of history because of the inability to separate these two concepts. Even if every protester did come out with hate for Israel, I would still support the movement because people are complicated and the fight for justice is universal, regardless of a secondary political opinion. It is my belief that the vast majority of those who choose to condemn Israel outright just do not have all of the information. If I want to expect to be listened to when I talk about defending the state of Israel, right now I need to stop talking and start listening about defending black lives.
It is abundantly clear that we are in the midst of a great period of change, and I do not doubt that the Jewish soul will survive this change just as it has every other in history. Holding on to the values of justice and kindness is what has made the Jewish people so resilient. Right now should be no different. Be an ally for black lives and be a force that will bring justice and peace to the world.
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