A Time for Repentance and Action

Posted on June 7, 2020 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

Dear friends,

As Shabbat arrives this evening, we say goodbye to another tumultuous week. Many of you have shared the strong emotions you are feeling as we process a precarious shift from lockdown to tentative re-openings that feel precipitous to many of us. We continue, as well, to sort out our feelings and emotions about the brutal murder of George Floyd and the appropriate demands for justice for him and for all the other black and brown Americans who have been the victims of persistent and pervasive racist violence at the hands of law enforcement.

Know that we at TBE are committed to being part of the path that leads to justice, healing and peace that come about by seeking to change the structures that have enabled a history of injustice and discrimination. In the days ahead we will be sharing concrete steps we will be taking and ways that you can be involved.

Below is my opening statement from the Vigil for Justice and Peace in Memory of George Floyd and all Lives Lost to Injustice that was held last Sunday by ICAN, our local interfaith action coalition. (A recording of the vigil can be found on our Livestream or YouTube channels. An article about the vigil can be found here.)

May the arrival of Shabbat bring us peace and respite from the turmoil of recent days and weeks. May we and our country know find healing of body and spirit.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck
A Time for Repentance and Action
Opening Remarks for
Virtual Vigil for Justice & Peace
in Memory of George Floyd
And All Lives Lost to Injustice
June 7, 2020
Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck
Temple Beth-El, Hillsborough, NJ
Interfaith Community Action Network (ICAN)

Some might think that we are gathered today because a rogue police officer, abetted by three other officers, used his knee to suffocate an unarmed black man, George Floyd. They would be wrong to think that. We are here today because for more than 400 years White America has systematically applied its weight to crush and suppress the lives and aspirations of black and brown people, to turn them into objects and deny them their basic rights as human beings created in the image of God.

As a white American, the collective knee on the throats of our black brothers and sisters is my knee, too. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “some are guilty, all are responsible.” Everyone on the other side of the racist divide is implicated in suffocating and suppressing Americans of color. And I want to declare today that I am done with that. I will have no more of that! Not on my conscience. Not in my name! Not in the name of this nation that set out to stand for and aspire to a vision of justice and equality.

This must be a time of contrition and repentance. We must own up to the original sin of America – the fact that this nation was built on the backs of black people whose lives were sacrificed so that white people might prosper. And when that was done, white America repaid them with disdain and depravity. This is the truth that is laid bare by this moment of Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd and Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor… and on, and on…

And so, we are gathered this day to bear witness; to declare that we are done with the shameful complicity of our past; to declare that we will no longer stand with the oppressors. That from now on, no matter what, we will stand with the oppressed until, as the prophet Isaiah declared: “Justice will well up as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream;” until we redeem the promise of this nation that dared to dream of a society in which “all men [and women] are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights…” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;” until every American child has an equal chance to fulfill the dream of a life of dignity and opportunity.

Thank you for joining us today. We are grateful that we are able to stand together as people of faith, religious leaders of many faith traditions, and civic leaders of conscience, committed to a vision of justice and peace and an America of which we can all be proud. So, let this day be a beginning – the beginning of a movement – a 21st-century civil rights movement that joins all Americans of good will and God’s spirit of justice to make real the promise of this nation for all its citizens.