On Monday, May 25, George Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis police. According to video taken at the scene by witnesses, a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. Mr. Floyd, already in restraints, appeared unresponsive after the first six minutes. He was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center about an hour later. Four officers involved have since been fired, and one has been charged with third-degree murder. Mr. Floyd’s death is the latest of many cases of African American – mostly men, but also women and children – who have died in encounters with the police in the last few years.
For the past few months, our city, our nation, and our world have struggled with the ramifications of a pandemic and quarantine. Nevertheless, we must always heed our Torah’s commandment, “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:16) Coping with the effects of the pandemic does not excuse us from fighting the epidemic of violence that, for years, has claimed the lives of our neighbors.
PJTC has long enjoyed the friendship and partnership of the African American community in Pasadena. We have worshiped together and we have served the needy together. We must now stand by them in this moment of mourning and make their fight for justice our fight for justice.
In the face of the great struggle for racial equality in America, one that began before we were born and appears to have no end, it is easy to succumb to a sense of powerlessness. But during his engagement in the Civil Rights movement, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminded us of the Prophets’ call to consider the welfare of the oppressed a holy obligation, and our Sages reassure us in Pirkei Avot, “Even though you are not personally required to complete the task, you are not free to desist from it.” In this spirit we want to make sure you know about a local event where your presence, action, and solidarity can make a difference:
* Caravan Vigil & Peace – Tuesday, June 2, 5pm, beginning at
First AME Church in Pasadena
To be clear: We do not condone the violence or vandalism that you may have seen at other protests this week. Nor do we take for granted the care that local and county law enforcement have taken in protecting our rights to peaceful gathering as Anti-Semitism has surged in recent years. Yet, our respect for those police officers who act justly cannot cause us to ignore the very different experiences that others have or to turn our backs on our responsibility to make our voices heard in this moment, as the blood of our neighbors cries out to us from the ground.