A Time of Pain and Fury

אֵל־נְקָמ֥וֹת יְהוָ֑ה אֵ֖ל נְקָמ֣וֹת הוֹפִֽיַע

עַד־מָתַ֖י רְשָׁעִ֥ים ׀ יְהוָ֑ה עַד־מָ֝תַ֗י רְשָׁעִ֥ים יַעֲלֹֽזוּ׃

יַבִּ֣יעוּ יְדַבְּר֣וּ עָתָ֑ק יִֽ֝תְאַמְּר֗וּ כָּל־פֹּ֥עֲלֵי אָֽוֶן׃

עַמְּךָ֣ יְהוָ֣ה יְדַכְּא֑וּ וְֽנַחֲלָתְךָ֥ יְעַנּֽוּ׃

Adonai, how long will those who commit evil,
how long will those who act wickedly continue to rejoice,
Singing the praises of everyone who commits evil?
Adonai, they oppress Your people, they afflict Your very own…

—From Psalm 94

These are days of pain, rage, and fury. The vicious murder of George Floyd—a veritable lynching—is the latest of a long chain of murders of Black people at the hands of the police. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, are an expression of our country’s 400-year legacy of slavery, and the systemic and structural racism that continues to devalue the lives of people of color.

Communities of color in our country are not only frequent victims of injustice and police brutality, but are now suffering in disproportionate numbers the effects of the pandemic and of unemployment. People of color, many in our own Jewish community, are being pushed to the edge. Black Lives Matter is not a slogan, but a desperate cry and a demand for justice, equity, and dignity. We all need to hear it and respond.

In despair and indignation, like the psalmist, we decry the perversion of law and justice.  We denounce the use of police force to repress lawful and peaceful protest. We condemn those who take advantage of this moment to use violence against law enforcement agents, to loot, burn, and destroy. That will certainly not bring about the change we need. And we denounce the president’s hatred, divisiveness, and threats, in both speech and action.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly young and overwhelmingly peaceful, are coming out to the streets all across America. Like never before in recent memory, our nation deeply craves healing, comfort, justice, and peace. That is what we all aspire to and rightfully deserve. However, we know that it will not be achieved unless we engage in the hard work that is required to dismantle racism and to affirm true democracy.

Race and Us: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This has been the hard work our community has undertaken over the past year with Race and Us. We work to educate and challenge ourselves to confront the implicit bias we hold as individuals and as a Jewish community. We commit to living out the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the life of BJ—from our staff, to our embrace of the diversity of the American Jewish community, to the ways we hold our power and privilege and the soul searching a religious community like ours needs to embody.

We will continue to commit to undoing racism day in and day out in our community, and in partnership with other communities. It is a long road, but we will not desist. We will channel our rage, our brokenness, and our power to dismantle racism and live out the vision of the prophet Amos:

יִגַּ֥ל כַּמַּ֖יִם מִשְׁפָּ֑ט וּצְדָקָ֖ה כְּנַ֥חַל אֵיתָֽן

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

J. Rolando Matalon

Written By J. Rolando Matalon

José Rolando Matalon, B’nai Jeshurun’s senior rabbi, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was educated in Buenos Aires, Montreal, Jerusalem, and New York City. After his ordination at the Jewis...

Felicia L. Sol

Written By Felicia L. Sol

Rabbi Sol has served as a rabbi at BJ since 2001, becoming the first woman to serve as a rabbi to the community in the congregation’s almost 200-year history. Rabbi Sol began her initial involve...