What White Jewish-led Institutions Can Do For Racial Justice Now
By Jonah S. Boyarin
We live in heartbreaking times. George Floyd, of blessed memory, a Black Minnesotan, was slowly suffocated by a white police officer in front of a crowd of protesting onlookers. Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, of blessed memory, were also killed by police. During the pandemic, police have been four times more likely to arrest a Black person than a white person for the same violation of a stay-at-home order. In Chicago, Black people are 30% of the population, yet account for 60% of the COVID-19 deaths, a result of of systemic health discrimination and economic disenfranchisement.
As mass protests across the country bring these issues yet again to the forefront of our nation’s consciousness, white Jewish leaders are recognizing that they, too, have a crucial role to play in changing racist policies, practices, and beliefs. Young Jewish people increasingly wish to affiliate with institutions that mirror their concerns for racial justice, and look to Jewishness as a resource for history, belonging, and moral guidance. Jewish and non-Jewish people of color are eager to see that we are ready to support them.
As a white Jew who has supported and led racial justice work inside and outside the Jewish communal world, I have some tips for other white Jewish communal leaders. Whether you’re a day school administrator, a pulpit rabbi, or a Federation executive, there’s plenty you can do.
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