A Covenant of Justice: Statement on Recent Events and Moving Forward


 

Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof
Let there be justice in our time… and let it begin with us.

 

Dear CNS congregants and friends,

When our nation first witnessed the murder of George Floyd, our eyes were scarred by his desperate pleas, and shocked by the callous indifference on his murderer’s face. How do we respond as a kehillah? What are our Jewish values? How do we live up to those values? What must we do?

We demand justice. We declare black lives matter. We stand against systemic racism and the long history of violence against marginalized communities kept from the promise of America as a land of freedom and equality. We reject police brutality and the abuse of power by those entrusted to keep the peace.

None of those is enough.

So many times, we were called to act as a nation, hesitated, and backed away, only for another injustice to occur. Called again to action we ask: if not now, when? And we respond: now.
As Jews, standing for justice cannot be reserved for antisemitism alone. We must be antiracist. We must loudly and publicly raise our collective voices for all. We must demonstrate our support with more than just our rhetoric. We must exercise our commitment to social justice and equality through our actions. It may not be easy to face racism as a primarily white congregation. Often, emotions of anger, guilt, and fear surface and make good people disengage from the painful work of change.

Just as Jews rode and died with the Black Freedom Riders in the South in 1961, almost 60 years later we “ride” with African Americans in Portland Metro as we partner in our battle against racism.

None of us is free from racism until all of us are free from racism. We will all work together toward that goal.

There is much CNS has already done; we aspire to justice, incline toward equality, and desire to see a society where equality and justice are applied fairly to all people, irrespective of color, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any of the other distinctions used to deny another person their full humanity.

And it is time to do more.

All of us may be on different paths but in the end our goal is to be together and resolute. Let us make a Congregation Neveh Shalom brit, a covenant, with one another to transform those ideals into real, sustained change, perhaps via only a partial list offered below.

As it says in Pirkei Avot: “All the world stands on three things: Torah (learning), prayer and serving G-d, and deeds of kindness.”

Torah (Learning)

  • Educate ourselves about historic and contemporary racism.
  • Discuss and work together to reimagine, repair and rebuild broken systems.

Avodah (Prayer and service)

  • Invite black faith leaders into our prayer space on a regular basis.
  • Attend black churches and mosques.
  • Organize multiple ways for congregants to engage together in antiracism work.

Gemilut Chasadim (Kindness expressed by action and giving of the self)

  • Engage with people of color and listen deeply to their stories.
  • Develop action-oriented resources and activities.
  • Examine and uncover our own implicit biases.

Working to be the change,
Congregation Neveh Shalom Clergy, Staff, and Board of Directors

 

“In a free nation, some are guilty…all are responsible.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel