Sign In Forgot Password

The Time Has Come to Speak

06/03/2020 03:34:40 PM

Jun3

Rabbi Brad Levenberg

One week ago, as we concluded Shabbat, many of us were roused by the news that protesters had taken to the streets and that Atlanta was burning. Whether the actions were primarily perpetrated by outside antagonists or whether this was the physical manifestation of anger and frustration and a sense of helplessness, what we saw most certainly captured our attention. And we’ve been attentive ever since.

Like every impactful event, the conversation around the protests has been far from monolithic. Some of us are focused on the protests and some are focused on the protesters. Some of us are focused on the lack of social distancing and mask wearing and some of us are focused on support that the protesters are providing to each other. Some of us are focused on the looting and some of us are focused on the murder of George Floyd and so many others.

Whichever of those listed above have engrossed your conversations of late – and for many of us there may be more than one of those listed, and the list was far from complete – like a runny nose is a symptom of a summer cold, all are elements of something much larger. The greater issue lies with unresolved and continuing issues of racial inequity and privileges associated with our choice to feel empathy in the pain of others or to focus our attention on other issues that we find personally compelling.

Nonetheless, the protests – and the signs carried by the protesters - challenge us.

They say to us, “The murder of a(nother) black man – say his name: George Floyd - at the hands of police was not compelling enough to draw your attention…but you’re attentive now.”

They say to us, “The murder of a(nother) black woman – say her name: Breonna Taylor – at the hands of police was not compelling enough to draw your attention…but you’re attentive now.”

They say to us, “The murder of a(nother) black man – say his name: Ahmaud Arbery - at the hands of those enabled and encouraged by Citizens Arrest laws was not compelling enough to draw your attention…but you’re attentive now.”

They say to us, “The objectification and murder of a(nother) person identified with a minority group – say his name: Tony McDade - was not compelling enough to draw your attention to our need for Hate Crimes legislation in Georgia…but you’re attentive now.”

They say to us, “The harassment and the tasing of a(nother) person of color at the hands of police – say their names Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim - was not compelling enough to draw your attention to the need for police reform…but you’re attentive now.”

They ask us (as displayed on countless signs in the protests), “Why do we have to keep telling you that black lives matter?” They indict our systems that still support inequity. They tell us, “While we’ve come a long way over the last 70 years…this journey is not yet done, and we need to spend less time congratulating ourselves on the victories of the past and more time fighting the fights of today.”

One week ago, as we concluded Shabbat, many of us were roused by the news that protesters had taken to the streets and that Atlanta was burning. On Friday morning at 11:00 am, an interfaith group of clergy members – including your own – will gather on the steps of Atlanta City Hall (Mitchell Street side) and pray for change and for peace. We will then march peacefully through the streets to the CNN building at Centennial Olympic Park where we will pray once again for change to come and for peace to prevail. Though not a Temple Sinai event, should you choose to participate (despite the lack of social distancing)…it will be an honor to make our steps sacred together.

Our own congregational policies during this time of COVID prohibit gatherings such as these in an effort to keep our community safe. But in the words of Ecclesiastes – “There is a time for every experience under heaven…a time to keep silent and a time to speak.” – for many of us, we recognize that the time has come to speak. And we will do so, with gloves on our hands and masks on our faces, and with our feet.

If you want to learn more about this and other Temple Sinai efforts regarding racial justice, email Rabbi Levenberg at blevenberg@templesinaiatlanta.org.

Shabbat Shalom,

Brad

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780