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Advocacy

A Special Message From Our Clergy

June 1, 2020

Statement on the Plague of Racism in America 

In recent days, we have often heard the phrase “No Justice, No Peace.”  These words, in truth, are words of Torah.  Our prophets and sages remind us that it is through the pursuit of justice that our society will know peace.  In regard to race, our country has never been at peace and never been fully just.  While equality of all Americans has always been an ideal, racial justice remains more an ideal than a reality.  The killing of George Floyd is only the most recent instance of a systemic failure to provide all of our citizens with equal justice.  It is not only the actions of those four police officers in Minneapolis that are at issue. Somebody hired them, trained them, supervised them, and yet failed to realize that those officers had no concept of what it means “to protect and serve.”   

The egregious nature of his case, however, in a sense makes it too easy to ignore multiple cases of police shootings of unarmed black men under more complex circumstances. It also does not address civilian shootings based on supposed grounds of “self-defense” or calling police in cases where the perpetrators greatest crime is being black in a white neighborhood.  Having been 400 years in the making, the issue of racism in America will not be solved overnight. 

However, our congregation has already two avenues in place to respond.  If you would like to join in these efforts, email our social justice coordinator Jason Taper at jason.austinsocialjustice@gmail.com or rabbi.freedman@bethshalomaustin.org

First, a criminal justice task force already exists which, in partnership with Central Texas Interfaith, Congregation Beth Israel, and others in the Jewish community, has already established links to law enforcement at the local and county level.  This presents an opportunity to address issues of concern around law enforcement practices as well as investigation of incidents involving police and minority suspects. 

We are in the early stages as well of formulating a team to combat voter suppression in Texas. The Religious Action Center-Texas is coordinating efforts by Reform congregations across Texas to promote voter registration (both within the Jewish community and in the community at large) and to raise our voices against tactics aimed at denying minorities and others their right to vote. Unless one has the confidence that their voice will be heard at the ballot box, then the only other place to raise one’s voice is in the streets. 

We will also be exploring other ways in which to affect public policy that impacts minority communities. There will be upcoming sessions on the proposed city budget, for example, which funds not only emergency service (police, fire, EMS) but also other aspects of city spending which impact our community. Also look for opportunities for diversity training in the coming weeks.  Finally, as opportunities to impact policy at the local, country, and state levels present themselves, we will be seeking your support for those efforts.   

Surely, there is pain, frustration, and justifiable anger today, but we have encountered this before and nothing fundamentally has changed.  Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us that prayer is not enough; that speaking words of angst falls short of our responsibility to act.  Let us move our society forward together, let us walk the talk, and to paraphrase Heschel, let us pray with our feet.   

Rabbi Alan Freedman 

Rabbi Amy Cohen 

Read and learn how to subscribe to our social justice newsletter on the Social Justice News page.


 

We encourage you to join our Advocacy Group at Temple Beth Shalom! As Reform Jews, we make a collective effort to bring our values to bear in the community at large. We engage on issues of local, national, and global concern. We participate in interfaith coalitions and activities. We speak out on behalf of the vulnerable and we seek justice for all.

We also participate every year in events like Austin PRIDE and NAMIWalks with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Austin. Please refer to the temple calendar for specific dates and event information. 

Our Social Justice Fellow, Lori Adelman, works with the Austin Reform Jewish community to create a sustainable formal structure for us to work together on social justice issues. Learn more about Lori and her work with our community.

If you have questions or want to learn more about Advocacy, please send an email to Larkin Tackett or check out our FAQs page.

Mon, October 19 2020 1 Cheshvan 5781