2020 YIR: Rabbis Criticize Letter on Killing, Protests
In June 2020, five Jewish organizations in Atlanta issued statements in response to the death of George Floyd.
Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.
June 5, 2020
On June 1, five Jewish organizations in Atlanta issued a statement in response to the death of an African American man, George Floyd, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
The five were the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, the Anti-Defamation League Southeast region, the American Jewish Committee regional office in Atlanta, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta, and the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.
The letter said that the killings of Floyd, of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Ga., were “part of a pattern of systemic violence against Black Americans that cannot continue. We cannot stand idly by these and countless other transgressions against our Black brothers and sisters.
“Police brutality against Black Americans is the most visible manifestation of institutional racism,” the letter said, continuing with, “Misguided and immoral public policy that preferences white Americans over people of color and contributes to ongoing inequities must come to a swift end.”
Rabbi Shalom Lewis, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Etz Chaim (who retired in June 2019) rebuked the signatories in an email that objected to the tone and content of the statement. The AJT obtained Lewis’ letter from more than one source.
Lewis said that he was “appalled and embarrassed by the text,” calling it a “shameful expression” that “relies on pandering generalizations, progressive doctrine and untruths.”
The retired rabbi added, “The chutzpa of community leaders assuming they speak for all of us resulted in an inarticulate undeserved Mea Culpa that ignored the hijacking of legitimate, peaceful protest,” Lewis wrote in his email. Lewis’ response was endorsed in another email by Rabbi Ilan Feldman of Congregation Beth Jacob.
Lewis later told the AJT: “I am associated with a document I find repugnant in words of commission and the words of omission. The most flagrant absence, transgression of this document, is there is no mention whatsoever of the rioting and the violence that has ensued, not a word.”
Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, who is also president of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association, told the AJT, “I really appreciated Shalom’s willingness to speak up. The community message referenced was representing felt feeling and values that the authors identified and believed we needed to be articulated clearly at this difficult time. Of course, a community as diverse and large as ours has a myriad of perspectives so no one statement can capture them all. Shalom is giving voice to others in our community. Ultimately that is what this is all about.”
- Dave Schechter
- Year in Review
- George Floyd
- Black lives matter
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- Breonna Taylor
- Ahmaud Arbery
- Police Brutality
- Rabbi Shalom Lewis
- Anti-Defamation League
- Atlanta Rabbinical Association
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal
- Rabbi Ilan Feldman
- Congregation Beth Jacob