Black Lives Matter

December 30, 2014
By Avi Rose

On the first night of Chanukah, I was glad to join a large and spirited public gathering of Jews. We greeted old and new friends, we sang, we prayed, we heard words of wisdom and inspiration about this holiday of resistance and rededication . . . and then we marched together in the cold and rainy San Francisco night, calling out for justice for African American men and boys. We said Kaddish for those whose lives were ended far too early, and we stood in a silence that reverberated powerfully in the middle of Market Street. It was a proud, sobering, and altogether fitting start of this year’s Chanukah season.

There are so many reasons why hundreds of us
gathered together in the rain that night. For one, this is not some kind of remote issue. We live in an increasingly diverse, multiracial Jewish community and, for many of us, it is our own children who are at risk when young people of color are unjustly and violently targeted. As a father, I carry the same fears that all parents of black children carry. It is my own son who has been well-instructed about how to behave around the police and, sadly, it is my own son who thinks twice before wearing a hoodie out in public.

Beyond our own relationships, we are of course guided by our Jewish obligation to pursue justice. Those of us who are Jewish and white carry a long, strong, and complex history of interacting with the black community. We understand our shared struggles for freedom and against all forms of slavery. We have stood together for justice; we will continue to stand together.

Here at JFCS East Bay, we are proud that African American staff, volunteers, and clients are an integral part of our agency. When we affirm that Black Lives Matter, we are not referring to an amorphous them; we are talking about us.

And of course, each life is precious and unique; in Jewish theology, each one of us is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. We all have the right to live in safety, free of violence, treated fairly, with a full range of opportunities to live life fully and pursue our dreams. May it be so.