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Statement on Derek Chauvin Verdict

04/27/2021 12:44:25 PM

Apr27

from the Clergy, the President, and SATO Chair

Dear friends,

We, like so many others, are relieved that Derek Chauvin has been held accountable for murdering George Floyd last spring. Though this act of justice cannot bring Floyd back, we pray that it offers some measure of consolation to his family, and marks a true turning point for our nation. May the Divine comfort those in mourning, and may George Floyd’s memory be a blessing, and a revolution.

Yet this verdict underscores the fact that our society remains plagued by deadly injustices, and an all-too-common absence of accountability. Please see this (partial) list, compiled by author Renée Ater, of unarmed Black women and men who have died at the hands of police since Michael Brown was shot and killed in 2014. To this list we add the names of Adam Toledo and Ma'khia Bryant, two young people of color -- teenagers, both -- who were also recently killed by police. 

It is also important for us to remember that Chauvin is only the 6th police officer convicted of murdering someone while on duty in the last 15 years. Highlighting this reality is the likelihood that Chauvin would not have been found guilty were it not for the noble efforts of fellow citizens like Darnella Frazier, who, with their voices and cameras, refused to stand idly by; of police officers who took the rare step of testifying against one of their own; and of prosecutors who worked tirelessly to attain a guilty verdict.

Indeed, as the Jewish Theological Seminary noted in its statement on the Chauvin verdict, “We know that the very need for this trial evidences a failure of justice on a much larger, and racially biased, scale. Day in and day out, Black Americans are the victims of racial profiling and aggressive conduct that put them at grave risk and cast a pall of fear over even their everyday activities. The fact that a fortuitously recorded and explicit video made a conviction all but inevitable in this case must not lead us to forget the hundreds of similar cases where no such evidence is at hand.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said, “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.” Each and every one of us, as Jews and as Americans -- and especially those of us who are white -- have an obligation “to act in every way possible to reverse the bitter fruits of racism,” as JTS so eloquently put it in their statement. 

This includes standing in solidarity with Black people and other members of racial and ethnic minority communities (including Black Jews and Jews of Color), dismantling unconsciously racist attitudes and policies within Jewish communal institutions, and advancing the cause of racial justice in our city, commonwealth, and country. 

We encourage you to get involved in our congregational racial justice work. For more information on how to get involved – or to help Beth-El launch additional actions — please contact our Social Action/Tikkun Olam (SATO) chairperson, Kristin Gorin (kristingorin@gmail.com). 

There is much work to be done. We pray that you will join us as we pursue justice together, within our community and beyond.

L’shalom,
Rabbi Michael Rose Knopf
Cantor Dara Sage Rosenblatt
Michael J. Doniger, President
Kristin Gorin, SATO Committee Chairperson

Sun, May 19 2024 11 Iyyar 5784