For the past many weeks, we have been practicing the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh, saving lives, in a more active way than usual. As we avoid gathering and as we put on our masks, we assert the value of each and every human life. And yet, the events of the past several days have served as a powerful reminder that in our country, not all human lives have been valued equally or guarded carefully.
We join with many other faith communities in deploring the killings of George Floyd, Dreasjon (Sean) Reed, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other black people and people of color by police, and we pray for comfort for their grieving families.
We know that these killings did not happen in a vacuum, nor are they the first instances of such racist violence; rather, there is a long legacy of white privilege in our country and its institutions that enabled them. In our society, black lives have never been granted the value, autonomy, safety, freedom, and dignity that they deserve. That systemic racism is an affront to our tradition’s insistence that we are all created in the image of God and the demand that we treat each other accordingly.
It is incumbent upon all of us, especially those of us who benefit from white privilege, to work to right those wrongs. We share the calls of the Faith Action Network (of which we are a member), which can be found here.
We support the right of protestors to express anger, pain, and sadness at the racism woven into the fabric of our society, and we are also saddened by the violence that has marked some of the protests.
Just as we commit ourselves to pikuach nefesh in the face of this pandemic, so too do we commit ourselves to ensuring that black lives are treated as sacred, and to not standing idly by the blood of our neighbors.
Rabbi Rose Nancy Simon, President, CBS Board of Direcctors Carol Benedick, Executive Director