Reform Movement Statement on the Situation in Baltimore

Contact: Max Rosenblum or Claire Shimberg
202.387.2800 |

In response to the violence that has taken place in Baltimore, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We pray for those affected by the violence in Baltimore and for the healing of the city. Over the past year, we have been spurred to speak out by the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and so many others tragically and unnecessarily taken before their time. Their deaths fill us with sadness and rage —but violence cannot be the answer. We also pray for law enforcement officers who risk their lives to ensure public safety and often face difficult, life-and-death decisions. We know that community leaders and business owners have already begun responding to the violence and helping to repair Baltimore’s soul. The work ahead will be difficult, but it is essential that we never lose hope as we strive to rebuild trust, strengthen our communities, reform our criminal justice system, and seek justice.

In partnership with communities of color, we must continue to work for structural reforms and systemic changes that will improve race relations in our towns and cities. Reform Jews in Baltimore and nearby communities are joining JCC-led cleanup efforts today, and advocates are also on Capitol Hill meeting with elected officials as part of the Consultation on Conscience. Just last night, amid the violence, Rabbi Andrew Busch, Rabbi Benjamin Sharff, and retired Maryland State Police Captain Heber Watts Jr. spoke with local Jewish youth about positive and constructive opportunities for young people to work together to pursue justice.

From coast to coast, our congregations know that discontent simmers in every neighborhood, in every city. Clergy are building on the relationships they have—and forging new ones—to help address the root causes of social unrest; opportunity and justice for all cannot be a hollow promise—America can, and must, live up to its highest ideals.

Rabbi Steven M. Fink, of Temple Oheb Shalom, joined Rabbi Pesner in responding to the violence:

We pray for healing and recovery that will allow Baltimoreans to move forward. Acts of violence have no place in civilized society, no matter the gravity of the injustice that provoked them. We join so many other devoted advocates and community leaders throughout our area to build genuine partnerships across lines of race, class and faith in our city to pursue justice. We are ready to listen. We are ready to respond.

Rabbi Andrew Busch, of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, added:

Baltimore clergy and African-American leaders are fostering better community relations through initiatives that provide resources for constructive dialogue, bringing together blacks and Jews to build on a long history of advocacy and social change efforts.

These problems are not unique to Baltimore. This is a flashpoint in a broader landscape of disaffected communities and a devastating lack of hope and opportunity for young people in particular. Cooperation is needed between local businesses and community advocates to provide economic opportunity, advance prosperity, and repair the trust between law enforcement and city residents.