JFREJ Statement: A Week of Tragedy and Anger

The spasm of tragic violence that has swept America this week has left us dazed and heartbroken. Jews For Racial & Economic Justice mourns the brutal killing of Alton Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge. He leaves behind five children and a family that loved and valued him. We mourn the horrifying death of Philando Castile in Minneapolis. He was adored by his community, his family and by his girlfriend, who documented the circumstances of his death. We are shocked by the murder of unarmed Delrawn Small Dempsey by an off-duty police officer in New York this week. Their deaths represent a history of relentless state violence, directed at People of Color.

We condemn the murder of five Dallas police officers yesterday following a peaceful Black Lives Matter march — an act that only leaves more families broken, derails our movement and feeds America’s fever of deadly violence. Nothing can justify an act like the killing of those officers. But we understand that this terrible violence is inextricably linked to an inherently racist system that has been killing, incarcerating and brutalizing Black people since before this country was founded. Police officers are often the face of that system. When police officers escape accountability again and again again — when no one is prosecuted for the deaths of Ramarley Graham or Eric Garner in New York; when no one pays a penalty for the deaths of Rekia Boyd, of Freddie Gray, of Tamir Rice — it feeds a well of despair and frustration that can only curdle into anger, and erupt into violence. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s Black lives mattered and they deserve better than the senseless violence and tragedy that we witnessed in Dallas. They deserve real justice and police accountability.

This week has been full of despair, full of frustration and ripe with anger. But this week is also at an end. How do we move on? How do we move through our confusion, toward action for justice in the weeks ahead?

Shabbat is a time set aside to reflect on the world as it is and dream of the world that we want to build. As we enter into Shabbat after a week of murder and hate, some of us will not be able to see the light of the candles through our tears, and some of us will be too numb to sing. We pray for the support and strength of our communities. We pray for the clarity in our tradition’s moral compass. We pray that our flames of justice are fueled and brightened in this dark hour.

Some of us will hope and pray for a liberated future, some of us with words, some of us with songs, some of us with chants, some of us with our bodies in the streets. This shabbat, some of us will be too devastated to hope or pray.

May we make space for our rage, our grief, our overwhelm.

May those in grieving find comfort, and those with privilege seek true justice.

May we turn towards each other, may we hold each other up, and in doing so may we gain the strength for continued survival, imagination, and struggle towards a world transformed:

From “Summer, Somewhere” by Danez Smith:

no need for geography
now that we’re safe everywhere.

point to whatever you please
& call it church, home, or sweet love.

paradise is a world where everything
is a sanctuary & nothing is a gun.