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Monday, September 28, 2020

A Turning Point

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Rabbi Mordecai Finley
Rabbi of Ohr HaTorah Synagogue in Mar Vista, CA

(this was sent to my synagogue list on June 3rd, 2020)

“My innards, my innards shudder! I writhe in pain! The walls of my heart pound!” (Jeremiah 4:19).

The words of Jeremiah came to me as I watched George Floyd die, gasping for air under the heartless clamp of a wretched man, pinned to the ground by people who were oblivious to the humanity of the person trapped under the weight of their indifference.

This outrage came at the end of series of outrages perpetrated against blacks. Those of us who have witnessed recordings of these and other outrages have nothing left but fury and disgust. Police brutality, especially against blacks, has to cease. Racist violence must be stamped out. The racial inequality in our country has to be addressed relentlessly,

Protests are not just inevitable; they are required. I am, like those of you reading this, disgusted by the brutality and find the racial inequity an affront. This seems to be a moment of rare and conscious near unanimity in our country. I don’t believe that most Americans are racist; most Americans hate racism and in this we are united.  The protests speak for all who demand an end to police brutality and want to work toward against racial inequity. Whether we agree or disagree with a given stand or statement does not matter. We have reached a time, not a chronological time, but a spiritual and moral time. We hope, a turning point.

And after the protests, after all the analysis, all the rear-view mirror thinking, all the distinguishing between protestors and anarchists and opportunistic looters, what racism exactly is and how to combat it, we will be left with one set of questions, arching over everything:  what shall we do?

President Obama said it well:

. . .  the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. (italics in the original). The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities. A big city may need one set of reforms; a rural community may need another. Some agencies will require wholesale rehabilitation; others should make minor improvements. Every law enforcement agency should have clear policies, including an independent body that conducts investigations of alleged misconduct. Tailoring reforms for each community will require local activists and organizations to do their research and educate fellow citizens in their community on what strategies work best.

(Please read his entire statement: https://medium.com/@BarackObama/how-to-make-this-moment-the-turning-point-for-real-change-9fa209806067)

From what I have seen, our local city and county leadership is doing a good job at responding to this crisis in a thoughtful way. There has been an astonishingly small loss of life. They see their job as facilitating protests and first amendment rights. The violence and looting are deplorable and unjustifiable. The violence and looting must come to an end.

After we restore civil order, we must address the foul moral disorder. We all will have great work to do. I hope and trust that the thoughtfulness of our elected and appointed local officials will continue into action. Once we see what our local leaders propose, we will figure out a way, as a community, to support their work. We will also join with other organizations to work for effective change.

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