Jews must support the Black Lives Matter movement to fight for the rights of people of color in their own religion, said dozens of Jewish activists who rallied for police reform Downtown on July 28.
“Black Lives Matter is a Jewish issue because there are black Jews,” said April Baskin, a vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who came all the way from D.C. for the event. “The freedom and safety of black people is tied to our Jewish values for justice and safety for everyone. Our country collectively has not been vocal enough.”
Jewish people of color led the procession of around a hundred people from Barclays Center to the Brooklyn Detention Complex on Atlantic Avenue at Smith Street, where leaders from activist group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice recited a prayer and the names of black people police have killed this year.
Along the way, they chanted “Black lives matter, black Jews matter,” and called on city lawmakers pass the Right To Know Act — a bill requiring police officers to identify themselves when they stop civilians and inform them of their right to refuse a search — and for other members of the faith to join the cause.
Many white liberal Jews mean well, one activist said, but they need to be more active in the fight for the racial equality they profess to support.
“I found in white Jewish liberal communities, there is a desire or wish for post-racial reality,” said Queens resident Mark Tseng Putterman, whose background is Ashkenazi and Chinese, and said he felt alienated growing up in a predominantly white Jewish community in Boston. “I think it’s really important for the white Jewish community to come out and take a more active stance for black lives.”
Ten percent of Jews in the U.S. are people of color, according to the Pew Research Center.
A lone Jewish counter-protester showed up to the rally, following the marchers with a sign reading “More white people killed by police than black people” and accusing them of hating police and not caring about the non-black people who have died at the hands of law enforcement officers.
“This is racist,” said the 15-year-old Long Island resident who identified herself only as Batya. “My life matters — white, black, all lives matter. These people hate the police.”
But the protesters said they don’t hate cops or think they’re all racist — they just believe the Police Department is as an institution and must change.
“I think that there are certainly good cops, but they are working within a system which that is inherently bias which needs systemic reform,” said Tseng Putterman. “I don’t think that we’re out here saying that all cops are racist — but we are saying that the NYPD as an institution is racist in impact, and needs to make changes in order to remedy that.”