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Black Lives Matter: We Shall Not Stand Idly By

On Monday, May 25, George Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis police. According to video taken at the scene by witnesses, a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds.  Mr. Floyd, already in restraints, appeared unresponsive after the first six minutes. He was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center about an hour later. Four officers involved have since been fired, and one has been charged with third-degree murder. Mr. Floyd’s death is the latest of many cases of African American – mostly men, but also women and children – who have died in encounters with the police in the last few years.

For the past few months, our city, our nation, and our world have struggled with the ramifications of a pandemic and quarantine.  Nevertheless, we must always heed our Torah’s commandment, “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:16)  Coping with the effects of the pandemic does not excuse us from fighting the epidemic of violence that, for years, has claimed the lives of our neighbors.

PJTC has long enjoyed the friendship and partnership of the African American community in Pasadena. We have worshiped together and we have served the needy together.  We must now stand by them in this moment of mourning and make their fight for justice our fight for justice.

In the face of the great struggle for racial equality in America, one that began before we were born and appears to have no end, it is easy to succumb to a sense of powerlessness. But during his engagement in the Civil Rights movement, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminded us of the Prophets’ call to consider the welfare of the oppressed a holy obligation, and our Sages reassure us in Pirkei Avot, “Even though you are not personally required to complete the task, you are not free to desist from it.” 

To be clear: We do not condone the violence or vandalism that you may have seen at other protests.  Nor do we take for granted the care that local and county law enforcement have taken in protecting our rights to peaceful gathering as Anti-Semitism has surged in recent years. Yet, our respect for those police officers who act justly cannot cause us to ignore the very different experiences that others have or to turn our backs on our responsibility to make our voices heard in this moment, as the blood of our neighbors cries out to us from the ground.

To speak with our Social Justice Committee about ways PJTC supports the Black Lives Matters movement, send them an email.

Racial Justice Virtual Social Hall Series 

During June & July, 2020, the Social Justice Committee presented a three-part Social Hall conversation about recent protests for racial justice, with a focus on the current protests in the U.S., root causes and next steps.

To discuss how PJTC's Social Justice Committee and membership have responded in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, email our Social Justice Committee.

To view a presentation on Structural Racism shared during these sessions, click here

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Session 1 - Protests Against Racism in our Streets: A Conversation

What do you think about the weeks of protests throughout the US and in many countries around the world? What has most affected you? What concerns and questions do you have? Share your thoughts and feelings with other PJTC congregants, who will meet in small break-out groups, each facilitated by a member of the Social Justice Committee of PJTC.

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Session 2 - Racism in America 2020: How We Got Here

This Social Hall session will look at why so many Americans of all backgrounds are calling for the transformation of their police systems, as well as changes in other areas of life. Peter Dreier, Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Department, Occidental College, will provide an analysis of the underlying causes of the protests. This will be followed by a Q&A with Peter, Louise Derman-Sparks and Carl Selkin, two other members of PJTC and the Social Justice Committee .

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Session 3 - What Can We Do About Racism, Individually & as a Synagogue: A Conversation

This Social Hall session will explore the many ways PJTC and each of us can act for social justice and eliminate racism in the many arenas of our society. Members of the Social Justice Committee will provide an overview of the many types of advocacy and action with which we can engage. In break out sessions, participants will have an opportunity to explore what actions they’d like to take.

Tue, October 20 2020 2 Cheshvan 5781