Our call for Justice
As protests continue across the United States, we are witnessing at the forefront a conversation about what our JCRC has always known to exist under the surface: the systemic racism that underlies and permeates our societal structures. According to For the Sake of All, a 2014 Washington University report on racial health disparities in St. Louis, there is an 18-year life expectancy gap between some predominantly white and predominantly black zip codes in St. Louis. Policies such as housing and zoning practices, inequitable school funding, access to early childhood education, differential policing practices, prosecutorial decisions and sentencing practice and so many others continue to create widely differing life outcomes for black and white residents.
Today we say the name of George Floyd as we mourn another life senselessly ended and call for justice from the Minneapolis police officers responsible for his death, but his name is far from the first or the only. Our country has experienced too many incidents of police violence and too many deaths of African Americans at the hands of the police, including Michael Brown and Anthony Lamar Smith in St Louis.
In 2018 our JCRC Council passed a policy on Racial Equity that, among other things, recognized that:
As a collection of institutions and leaders with significant influence in how St. Louis rises or falls over the next few decades, we have a responsibility to recognize our own internal biases and behaviors and continually recommit to addressing the scourge of racism head-on. As part of this work, we must improve how we, as the Jewish community, welcome, include, and make equitable the experiences of both Jews of color and non-Jews of color in our professional and communal spaces. This internal work is necessary for us to be responsible and effective advocates for racial justice.
To this end, our JCRC has recently launched a Jewish Coalition on Racial Equity (JCRE). The JCRE advises the JCRC on advocacy and programming to create an inclusive and impactful approach for Jewish communal engagement on issues of racism and racial justice. Through the task force, we support current initiatives from partner organizations working with communities of color, and we seek to provide opportunities for the Jewish community to reflect, learn, and discuss our individual and communal roles in dismantling systemic racism.
We recognize that:
• Our work on racial justice must follow the lead of the communities directly affected. We look to our task force members to serve as liaisons to organizations and movements actively involved in such work across the region.
• We will not be effective allies in the fight for racial justice without examining and processing our own histories and actions around racism and inclusion.
Please join us in this work. Join the JCRE by emailing Cheryl Adelstein. Sign up for our newsletters to receive regular updates and advocacy alerts. Reach out to people of color to show support. Donate and get involved with black-led organizations on the front lines. Educate yourselves (see below and HERE for more resources). Support our JCRC initiatives. Most importantly, show up.
The work is on all of us. But together, we can change the course of our region for good.
Joe Pereles Rori Picker Neiss
Board Chair Executive Director