April 21, 2021
Dear Rodeph Sholom family,
We write to you today feeling a mixture of relief and pain. George Floyd remains murdered and his family will forever be bereft of their son, brother, and father. For that crime, for the theft of his life, there can be no justice. That reality limits relief, urging us to remain in the place of pain and responsibility. A jury of Derek Chauvin’s peers has held him accountable for murder, a milestone in the country’s reckoning with police brutality. This verdict affirms the gravity of Chauvin’s crimes, and the depth of the Floyd family’s suffering and yet does not change the fact that white supremacy and oppressive, racist systems still exist.
Our Torah cries out eloquently and often for justice. In this week’s Torah portion, we are instructed: You shall not render an unfair decision. Do not show favor to the poor or show deference to the wealthy. Judge your neighbor fairly. The exceptionalism of this case underscores just how far we are from this vision of justice and the work that remains towards a society of fairness. Just think of some of the other factors that made justice possible: eye witness testimony, the willingness of the Chief of Police to testify, and the countless others who marched and demanded it was time to change.
Yesterday’s verdict may bring temporary relief, but we must feel and face the much heavier pain of unchecked violence in our country against our Brown and Black brothers, sisters, and community members. We see and witness the power of people across the country crying out in protest, demanding that individuals, communities and institutions be held accountable while also looking inward and committing to undoing racism. Justice, Justice you shall pursue, instructs Torah. We teach and model this sacred value to our children and our students, and hold this at the heart of our community.
Famed civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson said: “One of the great tragedies in this country was that we had generations of people who were raised and taught that they were better than other people because of the color of their skin. There is nothing more abusive that you can do to a child or to a community than persuade them that their worldview should be shaped by that lie.”
Ours is a Jewish history that reminds us of the dangers of such a lie, even as ours is a tradition that requires us to name and elevate our shared humanity. We shall not remain indifferent. Justice we shall pursue. May George Floyd’s family know peace and comfort after their excruciating suffering. And may George Floyd’s memory compel all of us to fight for the sanctity, dignity, equality and protection of Black lives.
Robert N. Levine, Senior Rabbi
Benjamin H. Spratt, Senior Associate
Rabbi Greg D. Weitzman, Associate
Rabbi Juliana S. Karol, Assistant Rabbi
Rebecca Garfein, Senior Cantor
Shayna De Lowe, Associate Cantor
Barbara Zakin, Executive Director
Peter Ehrenberg, President