Responses to Ongoing Civil Unrest, June 2020

Jewish tradition tells us: ‘Do not stand over the blood of your neighbor,’ an injunction that if one sees his neighbor in danger and has the ability to do something, he must do everything in his power to help him.

Therefore, we, the Congregation of Moses, a traditional Jewish synagogue in Kalamazoo, wish to voice solidarity with those expressing rightful outrage for the most recent demonstrations of racism in our country.

As a historical target of institutional hatred ourselves, we are sensitive to the ongoing exclusion of minorities as evidenced by disparities in access to health care, jobs, housing and policing. Though change in society and culture will not happen quickly, we acknowledge that change is absolutely necessary.

During these times of civil unrest, we join in the collective call for peace and reflection, but we understand that to achieve this end we must act.

For these reasons, we call on legislators at the national, state and local levels to fundamentally change their approach to law enforcement and the justice system so that they serve and protect all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity.

We encourage our own members to reach out to other communities, as well as to local law enforcement to help lead and shape these endeavors within the community.

Congregation of Moses Oversight Board (OvB)

In the beginning, God created just one human being, Adam. The Jewish sages explain that this was to promote future peace among humanity, because no one could say to another, “My father was greater than yours.” Since all of us come from the same ancestor, no group or religion or race can claim to be superior. Therefore, relying on our tradition as well as our values as Americans, the Congregation of Moses opposes racism and all racist actions.

This unique creation, the human being, was made “in God’s image,” which tells us that the soul, the most important aspect of every individual, is an equal creation, equally loved by God. “Have we not one father?” proclaims the Jewish prophet Malachi. “Did not one God create us?”

Having been the object of prejudice so often, it is the Jewish response to stand with those who see themselves as victims of prejudice. And so we affirm: It is one God who created us all.

In the best American tradition, we support peaceful protests against prejudice and injustice. However, we never approve of violence, destruction or injury to other people as a way of making a statement. Wisdom’s ways are “ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.”

Rabbi Harvey Spivak