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An Important Message from Beth Israel

June 1, 2020
Dear Friends,
These are unsettling and trying times for us all. Since March, we have lived the loss of stability and predictability, as well as the loss of loved ones. The rhythm of our days has been upended, and physical/social distancing has become our daily practice. Perhaps, however most critically, the inequities of our country have been amplified and devastating. In this unprecedented context of living through this pandemic, we are now witnessing profound pain and trauma. Rage and grief are pouring into the streets of cities around the country, including our very own. It’s been hard to find moments of stillness or quiet as we witness the eruption of generations of pain and oppression in the public square.
We were horrified by the murders of George Floyd this past week, Ahmaud Arbery three months earlier and countless people of color before them. These heartbreaking deaths serve as permanent stains on our national character. 250 years have passed since the unrealized promise of the Declaration of Independence; 150 years have gone by since amendments intended to end slavery were introduced, and we are 50 years removed from MLK, Jr. igniting our moral imagination by helping Americans see the pains of racial injustice. With all of these historical precedents, we still have far too long a way to go to actualize the unmet vision of Dr. King’s dream.
As a congregation, we stand in solidarity with communities that are peacefully protesting these murders, and with noble, anti-racist law enforcement officials who are just as devastated by these horrific crimes. We will continue to work with and alongside our neighbors in San Diego and beyond, to cultivate loving bonds of trust. We will work to better dismantle causes of structural racism of which these murders are but a symptom, and to redouble our efforts to bring justice and equity to our community.
Our tradition teaches that tikkun (repair) is more than a covenant between God and humanity. Rather, tikkun is our work in humanity (people to people). This incremental, sacred approach is highlighted in Pirkei Avot (the Ethics of our Fathers) when we learn: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21). The systemic inequities that have set the country ablaze today also reminds us that we all have the power, privilege and moral imperative to take action and start TODAY.
To that end, we have had the honor of conversation in recent days with some trusted faith leaders in the African-American community. Here are a few of their directives as to how we can show up as allies and partners:
1) Sit in the lament with those that are lamenting, without offering suggestions on “Another way to see this…” or “At least, things aren’t as bad as they were.” Lament is not a time to soothe or escape the discomfort of the pain. Neither is it a time to invalidate the realities that Black and Brown people face every day in this world.
2) Listen to learn, not to refute. While it may not be your experience, listening to the experiences of Black and Brown people in today’s America, and what they have been forced to learn and endure just in order to survive; this will teach you more than a course on racism and injustice detached from story and experience will ever teach you.
3) When acts of racism and injustice happen, break the habit of vilifying the victim and putting his/her past on display, and don’t allow others to do it. It is dehumanizing and strips people of their dignity – PERIOD.
4) Use your voice to speak out against racism. Do not give in to the fear of the backlash you might possibly receive from your friends, your community, and/or, your colleagues. When we sit silent, we sit complicit. This perpetuates the injustice and allows the racist acts/attitudes/patterns to go unchallenged.
5) Read and educate yourself on the ongoing issues with racism and injustice in the world. Listen to podcasts. Watch Ted Talks. Then, with the power of God’s grace, refuse to allow it to continue under your watch
In the history of racial justice, far too many efforts have been intangible. Now, we need to turn the intangible into concrete progress. We must choose action as our tradition demands, “do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Lev. 19:16) As Richard Elliot Friedman teaches of this verse, “This is the opposite of the principle in American law that one does not have an ‘affirmative duty to rescue’. The biblical principle is that one has to help a fellow human being if one is able.” Below are some resources and suggestions for your own education and action steps. It’s up to us, and we are here for you. Chazak v’ematz – be strong and have courage.
Rabbi Jason Nevarez             Rabbi Cantor Arlene Bernstein         Rabbi Jeremy Gimbel
Incoming Senior Rabbi           Acting Senior Rabbi                          Assistant Rabbi
Kim Carnot                             Lesley Mills
President                                Executive Director

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