Social Justice


Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof—Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue

From Rabbi Carie Carter:

June 1, 2020

Dear PSJC,

Over this weekend, as the Jewish community celebrated the holiday of Shavuot, “the time of the giving of the Torah,” our sacred text which affirms the dignity of all human beings, our country has been suffering deeply.  The collective pain of Black Americans whose lives continue to be devalued is heart-wrenching.  

The Talmud teaches us that “one who destroys a single life is as if they destroy the world entire.” If that is so, then our world is being destroyed in front of us.  The racial injustice in our nation, including, but not limited to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, continues, and we must join with our neighbors across the nation in speaking out and standing up for the need to dismantle the systemic racism in our society. The need is clearer than ever, literally a matter of life and death.  This is our time to join with communities of color across Brooklyn and across the United States.  We must say loudly and clearly—peacefully to be sure, but clearly— that no one can have real justice until ALL of us, regardless of the color of our skin or anything else, have justice. . . .to say to ourselves, our leaders, our neighbors and our children that Black and Brown Lives do and must Matter in our society.  It is upon us to work for real equality and justice in our nation.  To create a world where people of all races and ethnicities can live in safety, knowing that all will be treated with dignity and respect.  

We know that this cannot be done with prayer alone (though this is a part of our prayers).  It cannot be done with words alone, though our speech is critical.  It must be done with heart and mind, with mouth and limb.  For some, that means joining in attempts at peaceful protest; for others, it is writing to our leaders on the city, state and national levels.  

I know that these actions, as important as they are, may feel inadequate, but they are critical steps toward creating a different world.  We, as individuals and as a community, are called upon at this time, to learn and to understand what it means to help be agents of real change around this profound challenge to our nation.  This is the time to come together to do just that.  We don’t have to have all of the answers about what that means, but we can wrestle with it together; we can have the conversations together.  We will begin this conversation with a discussion based on Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How To Be an Anti-Racist.   Details about this conversation are available here. In the meantime, please contact me if you are interested in struggling with me/us to truly understand what we must do as individuals and as a community to lend a hand in bringing about true and lasting, systemic change to our society.  

One thing is clear.  We must stand up for justice with our whole selves—as we are commanded: 
Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof  (Justice, Justice Shall you pursue).  We must never stop striving for Justice, and we must do it through just means.  So, while we completely condemn the acts of vandalism and violence (whatever their source) that have erupted in and around the (predominantly peaceful) protests, we must commit to speaking out from a place of non-violence.  Every effort must be made to use every measure of restraint to de-escalate instead of escalating a painful situation where people are protesting for justice. And we must work to curb the systemic racism and violence perpetrated on people of color across America not only in these moments but every day.   

We know the importance of working with the well-respected leaders of the African-American community, learning from them, speaking out together, acting as allies and lending our voice in the quest for Tzedek, for Justice in our society.  We must not remain indifferent.  We commit to continue to stand together and to lift up our voices for Justice for ALL in our society.   For we know, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said:  

"The opposite of good is not evil; the opposite of good is indifference.”

May we honor the memories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless others by not remaining indifferent, but by acting boldly for justice.

Rabbi Carie Carter
Park Slope Jewish Center

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