ADL Michigan, JCRC/AJC, interfaith leaders stand together to denounce racial injustice.
After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, civil unrest has broken out throughout the country, including in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and more.
In response to the events, many Metro Detroit Jewish organizations have shared their thoughts on Floyd’s death, the protests and how best to stand with members of the black communities during this time.
The Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, a partnership between the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, along with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Michigan chapter, released a joint statement on Monday, June 1 in response to the death of Floyd.
“First, let’s acknowledge that white people don’t fully get it. We may be moved to the point of tears when we see racial injustice, but if we’re being honest we must admit that we live different lives than people of color in this country and thus we don’t/can’t realize their experience in America,” the statement read. “It just means that we mustn’t pretend that we stand in their shoes, just like they don’t stand in ours. Many Jews can surely relate to the ways in which non-Jews can empathize and support us and work with us in effective coalitions. Many American Jews lost family in the Holocaust. We know that many non-Jews are empathetic, and that touches our hearts immensely.”
The statement emphasizes the need to acknowledge the growing number of Jews of color in the community, and how Jews should not perceive them as invisible during this time. While there will be more struggles ahead, the organizations ask communities to come together and recognize the changes that need to be made in our society.
“There is much to be done. We must join hands and do this together. We must be for each other and we must do it now,” read the statement. “This is a time for outrage, for there is much to be outraged about. But it’s also a time for us to be outraged together. Our unity in the face of racial injustice is our strength. Good people of all colors, faiths and ethnicities can and must step up our efforts. This is a time for solidarity, for commitment, for community involvement.”
The National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan (NCJW) chapter’s president, Amy Coulter, explained to the JN that their mission statement has always been to strive for social justice for all women, children and families, regardless of race.
“We stand with the people who are protesting against the murder of George Floyd,” Coulter said. “We demand justice as well and stand with all of our sister organizations and all of our sections across the country.”
The NCJW has roots in 28 states around the country and has roughly 90,000 members.
“Our mission is social justice for all,” Coulter said. “There is no line between color, between religion, between anything.”
Sarah Allyn, executive director of Repair the World Detroit, said she was horrified and saddened by the death of George Floyd.
“At Repair the World Detroit, we are making sure the people that have been impacted by this the most, our friends and colleagues in the Black community, are making sure the white voices are not center-stage,” Allyn told the JN. “We really want to lift up the voices of the Black folks who are being directly impacted here.”
Allyn and Repair the World Detroit are waiting to follow the lead of Detroit Jews for Justice (DJJ), since “they work so closely in organizing and activism, especially around anti-racism.” Allyn will follow the DJJ’s lead and work closely with them once they form their response.
“We acknowledge that in most our Jewish spaces, we see a lot of white faces and hear a lot of white voices, and that is really not the time for that,” Allyn said. “We will also be taking cues from the black leadership and voices in our community because we feel that is very important right now.”
DJJ’s founding executive director, Rabbi Alana Alpert, is currently working on educational and action opportunities for the community. Alpert also asks the Jewish community to support campaigns and organizations, like DJJ, during this time.
“The killing of black people by police is an egregious example of the systemic racism that we are committed to fighting. We condemn this horrific violence and affirm that Black Lives Matter,” Alpert told the JN in a statement. “Were it not for the pandemic and its disproportionate impacts on people of color and residents of Detroit (itself a result of structural racism), we would be actively mobilizing our supporters to demonstrate following the leadership of our trusted partners.”
According to Alpert, DJJ has also been approved for a grant from the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, which will enable DJJ to work closely with synagogues on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The grant will also support us to amplify the voices of Jews of Color, who have been telling us unequivocally that we in the Jewish community must show up for Black Jews and for all Black people targeted by state violence,” Alpert’s statement read.
The Detroit Free Press reported that faith leaders from varying backgrounds throughout Metro Detroit have come together to speak out against Floyd’s death and demand justice and peace. Those included are leaders in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities.
At Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit on May 31, rabbis, an imam and Reverend Kenneth Flowers spoke out against the racial injustice and condemned Floyd’s death.
During the livestreamed mass, local news outlets reported, Jewish leaders told the predominately African American congregation that “on behalf of the Jewish community of Detroit … we are with you at this time.”
Muslim faith leaders, Arab American advocates with the Arab American Civil Rights League, the Dearborn mayor and police chief also gathered at the Dearborn Police Station and criticized the injustice.
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, Rt. Rev. Bonnie Perry, also acknowledged Floyd’s death during mass and said “we cannot be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and crush the life out of another.”