JFREJ protest against policy brutality

Tonight: Jews of Color Lead Rally for #BlackLivesMatter

This just in from our friends at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a rally for #BlackLivesMatter led by Jews of Color:


Jewish People of Color, along with other Jews,
Hold a Vigil and Action to Demand Police Accountability,
Organized by Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ)

NEW YORK CITY – Tonight, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) led a vigil to honor the lives of Black people killed by police and to demand justice. Over 300 New Yorkers gathered at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The action was led by Black Jewish movement leaders, who shared their grief and outrage through song, prayer, and ritual. The march culminated in front of the Brooklyn Detention Complex on Atlantic Avenue, where mourners lit Yarzheit candles for those lost to police violence.

Shoshana Brown, a Jew of Color and a leader in JFREJ, addressed the Jewish community at large, calling for an increased and more active Jewish participation within the Movement for Black Lives.

“We are here today because Black Lives Matter. Within our Jewish community and beyond, Black Lives Matter, and we will not sit silent — as Jews and as human beings, we cannot be complicit with police violence and systemic racism. We are calling for immediate action to end the unrestricted cash flow into failed policing strategies. That means the immediate divestment from a system that criminalizes & incarcerates our people in states and municipalities across the country. Billions of dollars are spent on policing, while our education, health and housing suffer. Enough. It’s time to promote the economic stability and true safety of our communities— we must have a say over the institutions meant to serve us. We are done, we have had enough, the time for transformation of the system is now. As we enter the weeks leading to Tisha B’av, this is a sacred time for Jews to take a stand against atrocities happening right now, as we also remember those that have happened to us in the past. We say no more!” (Shoshana Brown)

As a historically oppressed people, Jews as a whole understand all too well what it is to experience state violence. But for Black Jews, state violence takes a different form. Anti-black racism is alive and well – in the media, in political discourse, and throughout institutions around the country. Police departments represent some of the most visibly violent manifestations of that anti-blackness. Jews say Black Lives Matter not only because we know what it is to be oppressed, but also because police violence against Black people is deeply personal for Black members of the Jewish community.

It is for this reason that JFREJ supports the Right to Know Act, police reform legislation that would require officers to identify themselves in non-custodial interactions and inform individuals of their right to deny consent of police searches where consent is the only legal basis. Earlier this year, over 50 New York City Rabbis signed a letter calling for the Right to Know Act’s passage in the New York City Council. JFREJ, along with 200+ organizations that represent New Yorkers from across the city are demanding the passage of the legislation, which has support from a majority of Council members.

It is for all of these reasons that tonight, Yehudah Webster, a leader in JFREJ and a Jew of color, spoke out against City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s decision to make a backroom deal with the NYPD as an attempt to prevent the Right to Know Act from receiving the vote it deserves via the democratic process:

Us Jews of Color are turning to our Jewish sisters and brothers. We need our Jewish community’s help in this dark hour. We need the Jewish community to show up for us and all people of color in this nation right now. We are asking for our Jewish brothers and sisters to make the time in their lives to take concrete actions in dismantling the racism that allows for police brutality. An important first step in New York is passing a real Right To Know Act. We are asking the Jewish community to show up for their Jews of Color brothers and sisters in this moment of state sanctioned violence against them and help us find accountability and protect our civil rights. We need your voices. We need your help. We need your love.  (Yehudah Webster)

Autumn Leonard, a Brooklyn-based Jew of Color and a leader in JFREJ, added:

As my children grow up, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity by the police. In fact, my kids deserve to be safe-guarded by those who have sworn to protect and serve. Police officers pledge to protect all of us, but they are letting us black folks down. They are letting my African-American children down. Instead of working with me to ensure my children grow up safely, police officers have become one of the things I need to protect my kids from and that is not okay. This is why I am asking for a real Right To Know Act. We need real police accountability. Knowing that the police are held to the highest standards will change what it feels like to raise kids in Brooklyn — it is how we rebuild trust and respect all around.” (Autumn Leonard)

JFREJ will continue to hold actions for the next two Thursday nights – part of a month of action leading up to the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’av, an annual fast day commemorating the many tragedies to befall Jewish communities around the world throughout history.

Shoshana Brown ended the night with a call to action for Jews:

“Come out next Thursday. And the Thursday after that. And the Thursday after that. And if you choose to observe Tisha B’av, do so this year in honor of all Black people who have lost their lives to police violence. This Tisha B’av, we mourn not only the Jews killed and attacked around the globe for centuries, but the Black people killed or attacked right here, in our city, in our country each day. I am a Black Jew. I am a Jew for Black Lives. Black Lives Matter.” (Shoshana Brown)

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