5/6 June 2020, 13/14 Sivan 5780

And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Kushite woman he’d married…(Numbers 12:1) This moment our Torah portion Be’ha’alotecha may or may not have been early racism. Or perhaps it was something entirely different. Either way it gives pause.

We know we WANT to be doing – and this is what we WILL be doing – working with Citizens UK calling for the living wage for all essential workers, many of whom come from BAME backgrounds, this is a start. Please watch out for and join in this.  If you want to donate these charities are doing essential work in the community. 100 Black Men of London mentors young leaders. Mama Youth Project provides training courses for enabling new faces and backgrounds into media positions.

But now what we SHOULD do is take a step back and LEARN and READ.  Angela Davis wrote; It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.

This week I started to re-read Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I also just ordered  The Good Immigrant: 21 Writers Explore What It Means To Be Black, Asian, And Minority Ethnic In Britain Today edited by Nikesh Shukla, so critical to understand the lives of those settling in this country.

I am thinking of how we as a community can engage with this work of seeing and calling out racism around us so all live with dignity and justice. But first I am listening and I am reading. This is Jewish work for us.

We know this is not new. There have been countless occasions of racist brutality in the US and truthfully here too.  There is a new energy and attention now. Albie Sachs, veteran anti apartheid campaigner and South African Constitutional Court Justice, spoke this week on anti-racist protests to PM’s Evan Davies.

See it , he suggested, not just as a duty but as an opportunity. I loosely quote; As you fight for human justice, you become more human and more just. This is our Jewish work now, this is the Jewish story. Not looking for parallel experiences of anti Jewish rhetoric and offence but rather to be concerned with our neighbour.

Look at this essay Religion and Race written by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights protests . But it could be this week.

People are increasingly fearful of social tension and disturbance. However, so long as our society is more concerned to prevent racial strife than to prevent humiliation, the cause of strife, its moral status will be depressing, indeed.

Equality as a religious commandment means personal involvement, fellowship, mutual reverence and concern. It means my being hurt when [a black person] is offended. It means that I am bereaved whenever a [a black person] is disfranchised.

Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Rebecca