Reform Jewish Leadership Statement: Black Lives Matter is a Jewish Value

June 12, 2020 

Throughout the past 400 years, Black people in America have been enslaved, subjugated, disenfranchised, murdered, and discriminated against. From generation to generation, white Americans, including white Jews, have failed to own and end the systemic racial injustices on which the nation was founded, and instead have actively or passively perpetuated these injustices.

Our Jewish tradition is replete with instances of moral reckoning when we are asked to be present and accounted for. “Ayecha?,” we are asked. “Where are you?” We respond with a full throated, “Hineinu.” “We are here.”

As Reform Jews committed to the spirit of this teaching, we say unequivocally, Black Lives Matter.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to commit to a human and civil rights movement, working to end systemic racism against Black people and white supremacy.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to recognize that we are a racially diverse Reform Jewish Movement, and that our diversity is a source of our strength.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is for white Reform Jews to pledge to be in solidarity with Black Jews and Black people from all backgrounds against racial injustice and to act accordingly.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to recognize the imperative to live with complexity and know that we can be steadfast in our love of and support for Israel while working side by side with those who hold differing views and express them respectfully.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to accept discomfort, knowing that actions or inaction of white Jews have contributed to ongoing racial injustice.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to move beyond allyship and commit to long-term solutions both internally in ourselves, our own organization, and externally in our communities to disrupt and dismantle white supremacy.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to acknowledge that Black people risk their personal comfort and safety every day in white dominated institutions, and that white Jews must commit to risking their personal comfort and even safety in the struggle for racial justice.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to ensure that People of Color can be whole, never expected to choose between aspects of their identity and celebrate the multifaceted nature of humanity.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to commit to individual and organizational antiracist trainings, identifying specific antiracist hiring practices and lay structures, and outlining goals around specific racial justice action steps.

To affirm that Black Lives Matter is for white Jews to reflect on their own thoughts and behavior, to build meaningful relationships with Jews of Color and People of Color generally, and to work for reforms that will achieve real, lived freedom for Black people.

We affirm that Black Lives Matter.

Learn, Read, Listen, Act:

We want to first acknowledge the transformative role of antiracist work led by April Baskin, former vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who provided instrumental strategy and vision for the Audacious Hospitality initiative, which we continue to build off of today. Many of the Jewish leaders of Color who have and continue to guide the Reform Jewish Movement were engaged and mentored by April, and she remains a thought leader in the field. You can read many of April’s writings here, including her poem “Racial Justice is a Jewish Issue.” 

Other valuable resources include:

Union for Reform Judaism
Central Conference of American Rabbis
American Conference of Cantors
ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America
Arzenu Olami 
Association of Reform Jewish Educators 
ATID Advancing Temple Institutional Developmen
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism
Men of Reform Judaism
National Association for Temple Administration
National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis
NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Program and Engagement Professionals of Reform Judaism
Reform Pension Board
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism
Women's Rabbinic Network
World Union for Progressive Judaism