HaOlam Monthly: Racial Justice

Why We Should Support The Fight Against Racial Injustice

This month, we have seen a huge increase in support for the racial justice movement. It has become increasingly clear that, in order to build an equitable society, we must educate ourselves and be advocates for justice. To some, it may seem as if being Jewish and supporting organizations and causes like Black Lives Matter are unrelated or even contradictory to our Jewish identities. But the two are not mutually exclusive. Here is why we, as Jews, must support the Black lives matter movement:

As Jews, we have an obligation to stand up for those who experience injustice. Some of our most important values include repairing the world, justice, and the value of human life. As it states in Devarim, or Deuteronomy: “צדק צדק תרדוף”- “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue.” Standing up for Black lives reflects our duties to stand up against injustices that we witness and our obligation to stand up for the oppressed.

Along the same lines, we must show up for Black Americans and oppose American racism if we expect them to do the same when it comes to American anti-Semitism. It is unjust to sit idly by through this moment and then demand support when it is our community suffering. — we cannot pick and choose when it comes to fighting bigotry.

Another big misconception is that all Jews are white. We need to remember that not all American Jews are Ashkenazi and have European heritage. We have the obligation to stand up for all Jews, regardless of race. By discrediting the Black Lives Matter movement, we are invalidating Black Jews and other Jews of color in the process.

Some Jewish community members have expressed concern over some anti-Israel rhetoric from activists within the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly in the platform that was initially released in 2016. While that original platform from 2016 did contain some of the language that has alarmed people in the Jewish community, their current platform contains no attacks on Israel, or any mention of Israel at all. That said, even when the movement in 2016 included statements on Israel in its platform, many Jewish organizations still displayed their support — and even more are doing so now. While they held strong in their opposition to this particular section, they proudly endorsed the rest of the platform that called for an end to our country’s history of systemic racism. We can, and should, do the same. If we believe in the overall goals of this movement — ending white supremacy and systemic racism — then it is our responsibility to support it. We must change our thinking and our rhetoric in order to do this. Instead of saying “I support an end to systemic racism, but I can’t stand behind the movement’s history with Israel”, we must say, “While I may not agree with all of their past statements about Israel, the cause they are fighting for is far too important to ignore.” This is not sacrificing our ideals for the sake of another, rather it is understanding that this cause is bigger than ourselves.

Earlier this month, USY released a statement of solidarity which reiterated our commitment to pursuing social justice and Tikun Olam through taking action to support the Black community. The #USY4Justice campaign was launched, which allowed USYers to raise money to be allocated in an early Allocations Meeting. For every one dollar that was raised up to $5,000, USY donated $2. In only two days, USYers achieved the $5,000 goal, which USCJ then matched $10,000. We continued to raise money in the following days and ended up totaling over $21,000!

USY then held an early allocations meeting where the money raised from the campaign was allocated to two organizations that contribute to the movement and racial equality. The two were Fair Fight and Equal Justice Initiative. EJI helps to combat mass incarceration and reform the prison system and Fair Fight works to combat voter suppression and discrimination and helps to give minority communities an equal say in elections and legislation. USYers chose to allocate 70% ($14,733.24) of the money to EJI and 30% ($6,314.25) to Fair Fight. Additionally, many branches have held their own programs and discussions to address our roles and what we can do for the movement.

“Our Early Allocations meeting was planned in a very short time and yet it was still very effective, fun, and well thought out… The meeting taught me how to thoroughly research organizations and how to prioritize where the donations would be put to better use. Thank you USY for your dedication!” -Ayden Kligfeld, Far West USY

Your friends,
Jeremy and Anna

2020 SA/TO Outreach Chairpeople