Tikkun Olam, Seattle Jewry, and the Killing of Charleena Lyles
[UPDATE: Seattle federation postpones police award after Charleena Lyle’s shooting.]
Friends near and far from Seattle:
Charleena Lyles — a Black woman; a beautiful mother, special needs parent, a sister, a friend, a community member — was killed by Seattle police officers this Sunday, June 18. And Che Taylor, another black man was killed without repercussions in our city last year. Just last week, we learned that the officer who killed Philando Castile point-blank in front of his partner and child was acquitted; there are no adequate words to describe his mother’s righteous anger. These situations are devastating in their own rights, but also because of how familiar and constant they are. I share those links to honor the memories of Charleena and Che — and Philando — and the communities that have lost loved ones.
They also put into focus how confusing and inappropriate it is that our own Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is giving their Tikkun Olam Award to Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole and the Seattle Police Department at their annual meeting this Thursday evening at Hillel. In fact, the Seattle Police Department is under a US Justice Department order and federal court supervision because of a history of excessive use of force and mistreatment of our fellow citizens, especially people of color.
This is not the tikkun olam I learned from my community. Will you sign this letter of petition, asking the Federation to rescind this award, and instead honor Ms. Lyles with the mourner’s kaddish at the meeting? Now is not the time for awards and honoring of our local law enforcement; it’s time for authentic and yes, politically difficult conversations about what is actually required in our community to create a repaired world.
Here is the comment I shared with my signature:
Signing as a long time Seattle Jewish community member, and participant/staff member/board member of many Jewish and Jewish social action programs. Honoring Chief O’Toole and the [Seattle Police Department] with the Tikkun Olam award is not only confusing, its embarrassingly out of touch given the killing of Charleena Lyles and Che Taylor, and violence toward black and brown people in and proximate to our own community. This award may be the result of their protection and partnership of Jewish community locally but that’s not tikkun OLAM, that’s celebrating preferential and therefore unjust treatment. Now is the time for difficult conversations, and tochechah (loving rebuke) — not this award.
I ask you to please consider signing as an individual, and leaving a comment explaining your distress at this situation, as well as Jewish communal affiliations you may have. The Federation needs to know that this award to SPD does NOT reflect our values.
You can also contact the Federation directly, as individuals or organizations, and urge them to rescind the tikkun olam award to the Seattle Police Department:
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
Email: [email protected]
Nancy B. Greer, President & CEO
To my Ashkenazi, white Jewish friends and family: we say we “get” this; we say we won’t let systematic violence happen to us again. Where is our collective, communal outrage about Islamophobia, anti Blackness, and racism in all its forms? Where is our collective, communal voice acknowledging this is happening, owning that we’re a part of this, shouting from the rooftops and helping bring to life the idea that “Never Again” encompasses THIS, and all oppression too?
If you’re interested in joining conversations and action about this, please ask me about Seattle Jews Undoing Institutionalized Racism and join.