1. Show up.
It’s not too late to build relationships. The time is now. This is a movement, not a moment.
2. Practice deep listening and less talking.
Jews love to talk, but we need to listen this round. Become familiar with the literature, texts, and individual voices of this 400 year struggle. See the extent of racism in America and feel its pain. Normally, white people can choose to ignore racism or to keep it on a theoretical level. If more white people heard and truly cared about the pain experienced by so many Black people, we would not be in the situation we are in. Respect Black people’s experiences as reality whether or not a Department of Justice report confirms it.
3. Do your own internal community’s work.
Work with your community to internally synthesize this learning into awareness and healing.
Don’t treat individuals of color as your teachers, but process your feelings with other white people. Many groups exist to support communities in doing this work.
4. Explode the myth that all Jews are white.
Black Lives Matter means Black Jews (and other Jews of color) must matter. Don’t speak of Jews as if they all share race and class privilege. When you really mean “white Jews,” say that. Figure out what your community has to do to make truly welcoming space for Jews of color and do it. Examine the messages you send children, about who is a Jew. Diversify your books and art to show Jews of color. Include a statement of inclusion for Jews of color on your website. Invite Jews of color who are artists, singers, or rabbis to give sermons. Perform, or show their art.
5. Find your Ferguson.
There are lucky zip codes and unlucky zip codes. Know the disparities in your community and commit to learning more about their root causes. If you don’t know them, contact your local School of Public Health or Social Work. Find the most effective entry point for your community. Do you need to start with direct service like mentoring or neighborhood outreach?
6. Hold yourself accountable.
Find out what your community does to hire minorities and people coming out of prison. Expect that your synagogue pays all of its workers a living wage. Practice saying “Black Lives Matter” out loud until it comes naturally and from your heart. Until everyone in your community can say it and mean it, there is work to do.
7. Hold the police accountable.
Support your local COB (Civilian Oversight Board). Does it have “teeth?” If not, agitate to make it truly effective and civilian-led. Examine your synagogue’s relationship to (or reliance on) the police and how it may make certain people feel welcome or unwelcome in your community. This means High Holidays too. Whatever you decide to do, write an official ethics statement explaining your decision.
8. Lobby for policy change.
Identify legislative opportunities to reduce racial profiling, the school to prison pipeline, and mass incarceration in your city, county, and state. There are so many of these efforts happening everywhere. Organize your power base to pass meaningful legislation.
9. Use your privilege to amplify the voices of those who have less.
Show up to #BlackLivesMatter rallies with signs of solidarity from the Jewish community. Repost the Black voices on your social media. Accompany striking fast food workers on their “walk back” to work to ensure they aren’t fired. Go to court for cases to show that privileged people care about ending solitary confinement and police brutality.
10. Go outside of your comfort zone while staying in your lane.
Pay attention. Don’t hide when it gets messy. We all have a role to play and we will all make mistakes. Accept guidance. Remember this is a movement to awaken compassion. No name calling. “Call people in” rather than calling them out. Give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. We are all sad and scared (or should be). Faith communities can be bridge builders, healers, and witnesses in this movement to make Black and Brown lives matter.
Write these on a notecard and carry them in your pocket…or copy them to your phone…bring your principles into the work so you do the best you can…good luck and see you in olam ha’bah…the world to come.