Under the leadership of Rabbi Art Vernon and Reverend William Watson, as well as an entire Executive Committee, a Black Jewish Coalition for Justice has been formed. Our inaugural meeting was today. Rabbi Sid Schwarz spoke about the responsibility of living in privilege, imploring us to get closer to the pain of others. He referenced a statement by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z”l that “some are guilty but all are responsible.” Reverend Floyd Flake spoke about how to make our local community as strong as possible, and how for him the key issue is quality education for African Americans. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and the Nassau County Parliamentarian also spoke.
Later we broke into small groups. We discussed how we can understand the struggles the other is going through, be they racial profiling, police brutality or affordable housing for the black community or delegitimization of Israel and the tendency to become isolated as challenges for the Jewish community. The leader of my group was an African American minister who had bad encounters with police officers (which we unfortunately learned was common amongst the black members of the group) but who later decided to become a police officer.
This is a great opportunity for rabbis and ministers to dialogue with each other and begin to understand the perspective of the other. I look forward to participating in the coalition and seeing its progress in the coming months.