Speaking Out Against Racism: A Statement from Rabbi Tanya

Speaking Out Against Racism: Nottingham Liberal Synagogue Solidarity with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities and all those who stand for justice.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel delivered a memorable speech in 1963 at the conference on “Race and Religion” in Chicago, where he stated powerfully: “Few of us seem to realize how insidious, how radical, how universal an evil racism is. Few of us realize that racism is man’s gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking.”

Two years later Rabbi Heschel was marching with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma. Rabbi Heschel’s personal example has been an inspiration and an example for us when it comes to standing up for other people and against racism. 

It is hard to believe that 57 years later in USA his speech sounds as timely as ever.  Now it is our turn to stand together and to stand up against racism wherever it occurs.

The death of George Floyd broke our hearts and flared our anger towards injustice and racism in, not just in the USA, but also in our country and around the world. In the words of Rabbi Heschel: “To think of man in terms of white, black, or yellow is more than an error. It is an eye disease, a cancer of the soul.”

It is the time now for us to say no to racism, it is the time now for us to say no to police’s brutality towards Black people everywhere. 

Nottingham Liberal Synagogue stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the USA, and all people around the world demanding justice, respect and equality for the members of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. God created every human being in God’s image so each of us is a child of God regardless of our race, colour and faith. 

There has been much activity about the importance of speaking out against racism across a wide range of Jewish organisations, including: Community Security Trust, Board of Deputies, Jewish Chronicle as well as Liberal Judaism and other Jewish denominations. You can find their statements on their websites. My friend and colleague Rabbi Neil Janes has also written an excellent article. Click here to read it.

 Please make an effort to do at least one mitzvah, one action, in this vitally important campaign. There are many ways of getting involved and making a difference. Here are two things to start with:

  • The Listening Campaign event run by Nottingham Citizens “Taking Action on Structural Racism” is one way to listen and take action in solidarity with other organisations across Nottingham. See below for more details.
  • Learn as much as you can about the history of colonialism, slavery and racism in the UK, the USA and around the world.
  • One of our Cheder teachers, Jemma Oberman, with a group of friends, have created a private Facebook group “Jews in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter”. This Facebook group provides support and resources for Jews committed to standing up against racism. For more information contact Rabbi Tanya.

Click here for extracts of Rabbi Heschel’s speech from 1963.

Click here for NLS Erev Shabbat Service June 5th, dedicated to the memory of George Floyd.

Click here for the Shabbat morning service on 6th June - dedicated to the memory of George Floyd.