Over the past two weeks, citizens in Chicago and other cities across the United States have united in protest in response to the wrongful death of George Floyd. George Floyd was an unarmed black man who was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25th, 2020.
During COVID and the unfortunate violence that has ensued during protests, it is incredibly difficult to define Tikkun Olam and how to show solidarity. As a platform for Chicago Jewish life, ChiTribe will be sharing responses from the Jewish community of Chicago and beyond as well as resources for you to learn more.
This Week in Chicago
In Chicago, the first local response was from Mishkan and Rabbi Lauren Henderson titled On Whiteness, Police Brutality, and Mindful Unlearning. “It’s an ongoing unlearning, not a one-time revelation. And it’s the only way I can be an authentic ally — someone who actually makes the world a more safe and loving place for all.” Rabbi Lauren Henderson. Read More Here>>
The ADL, Anti-Defamation League, released a statement on May 30th 2020. “We stand in solidarity with the Black community as they yet again are subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system.”Read More Here>>
Join us Thursday for a virtual rally at 4:30pm Central in solidarity with our Black family. Join us as we stand together with our Black family members, our neighbors, and the larger community to speak out against racism.
Led by JCUA’s Kol Or caucus for Jews of Color, taking place at the Field House in Humboldt Park at 10:15 a.m. before the Chicago March of Justice for George Floyd. There will be song, prayer, and reflection. Black Jews need your allyship and support as we seek justice for George Floyd and dismantle white supremacy. We will then join the march together. If your Shabbat practice allows, we’re calling on you to join us.
The JCUA program will be from 10:30-11:00 at the Humboldt Park Field House, 1400 N. Humboldt Drive, which is a block south of North Avenue. We’ll then walk across the street to the rally at the Boat House at 11:00. The rally will be from 11:00-12:00 and then the march will be from 12:00-2:00. Register Here
I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.”
We also want to share a poem written by Evan Traylor. Evan Traylor is a community builder, educator, activist, innovator, and future rabbi who strives to bring more love, justice, harmony, peace, and truth into communities around the world. More About Evan Here>>
I can’t breathe – as I watch the injustice and racism in the United States and the world grow.
I can’t breathe – as I witness intolerance etched on bathroom stalls and spewed at others.
I can’t breathe – as I think about all of the mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who have to lay their loved ones to rest much too early.
I can’t breathe – as I struggle to understand their definitions of “doing their job”.
I can’t breathe – as I watch people have to work harder, or change who they are, to fit into ideas of whiteness.
I can’t breathe – as I scroll through comment after comment, tweet after tweet, of hate and bigotry.
I can’t breathe – as I feel the weight of the struggle on my shoulders.
I can’t breathe – as I hear and see the stories of police brutality.
I can’t breathe – as I see people more concerned with the nature of the protests than the injustices that harm and kill so many people.
I can’t breathe – as I feel spirits crumbling.
I can’t breathe – as I think about the people that can just ignore the issues and still “feel alright”.
I can’t breathe – as I see my optimism for humanity slowly slip away.
I can’t breathe – because injustice in our hometown, in our country, and in our world is suffocating us.
We can’t breathe.
Note: I felt called to write this original piece in December 2014, following the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Eric Garner. Some language has been updated, and the picture was edited to include George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer. May the memories of Eric Garner and George Floyd, and so many others killed by racism, be for a blessing. Read More Here>>
Civil Rights and 2020
During these difficult times, we are reminded of our roots in the civil rights movement, when Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, among other Jewish leaders, marched arm and arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for racial justice and equality.
For many of us, the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Selma in 1965
We can still use our legs to pray today, as we seek out opportunities to stand in solidarity and take action to support the black community.
Assata’s Daughters organizes young Black people in the Black Radical Tradition. Based in Washington Park on Chicago’s South Side. Assata’s Daughters is a Black women-led organization that provides political education, leadership development, mentorship, and revolutionary services.
Since 1973, when it was born from the movement to free Angela Davis and all political prisoners, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has defended the rights of oppressed people in Illinois and around the world. We defend the civil liberties of workers, activists, and prisoners. We struggle against white supremacy, the prison-industrial complex, and state violence. We demand community control of the police and full representation for Black people and other poor and oppressed people at all levels of government.
“Chicago Community Bond Fund is in awe of the amount of donations we have received in the last few days. Over 16,000 people have generously ensured we have over $1.2 million available to pay bond for people arrested right now and eventually end money bail and pretrial incarceration.”
The Chicago Torture Justice Center seeks to address the traumas of police violence and institutionalized racism through access to healing and wellness services, trauma-informed resources, and community connection. The Center is a part of and supports a movement to end all forms of police violence.
Circles & Ciphers is a hip-hop infused restorative justice organization led by and for young people impacted by violence. Through art-based peace circles, education, and direct action we collectively heal and work to bring about the abolition of the prison-industrial complex. Located at 1545 W. Morse Avenue Chicago, IL 60626.
MBMHMC works to help Chicago youth explore, experience, and evolve within the local Chicago community. The small business relief fund supports ongoing efforts to repair small businesses in Black communities in the wake of violence perpetrated by out-of-state actors. They encourage donations and welcome volunteers.
“On May 25, 2020, my life shattered as I learned of the tragic passing of my dear brother, George. My family and I watched in absolute horror as the now infamous and horrifying video began to spread quickly throughout social media. What we saw on that tape left us shell shocked; a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling directly on my brother’s neck, obstructing his ability to breathe. As some officers knelt on his neck, other officers participated and watched; no one took any action to save my brother’s life. Those officers would continue to brutalize my brother until he died.”
National Bail Out is a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. We are people who have been impacted by cages — either by being in them ourselves or witnessing our families and loved ones be encaged. We are queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant. Learn more at www.nationalbailout.org.
Liberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to outside worlds of their choosing. We believe access to books is a right, not a privilege. We believe books and relationships empower young people to change the criminal justice system.
SOUL believes that our faith calls us to the fight for justice for all, especially those who have historically been marginalized and oppressed. Our mission is to assist low-income people of color in the Chicago Southland to build power, then subsequently leverage that power to fight for their own interest and liberation. We achieve this mission by partnering with congregations, people of faith and local community groups, training them in disciplined organizing strategies, to build leadership, create public policy and foster legislation, engage in direction action, and hold their public officials accountable to the interest of their communities.
Resources for Having Difficult Conversations
Anti-Racism Resources Google Doc to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work.
Jewish Social Justice Round Table provides free resources for and by Jewish Organizations.