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Fain Award Winner- Ferguson Activism

Ferguson Activism 

Central Reform Congregation Rabbis and members participated in the protest movement following the killing of Michael Brown and are continuing to work on reforming policy practices and improving community police relations.

Community Contact Information:

Central Reform Congregation

St. Louis, MO

http://www.centralreform.org

Goals: 

  • Promote non-violent civil disobedience to demand racial justice for black Americans and all people of color
  • De-escalation and helping to mend relationships between the police and community.
  • Recognizing the brokenness before we can repair the damage and engage in Tikkun Olam
  • Support black congregation and community members

Overview

Central Reform Congregation rabbis and members have been on the front lines of the protest movement in the wake of Michael Brown's death. CRC was looking for ways to help get involved in this movement in a meaningful way, and their rabbis have served as ambassadors to the community as part of the movement. CRC has become the go-to congregation when people want to hear about the Jewish perspective on the events in Ferguson. CRS' congregation is racially diverse and the events in Ferguson are deeply personal. They recognize that this work is challenging and changes won't happen overnight but they stand with the protesters and hope to establish a Sukkat Shalom, a shelter of peace, for all. 

They are currently working toward:

  • Civilian Oversight Board for Police for the City and the County.
  • Legislation that limits the practice of profiling by police.
  • Body cameras that are working, turned on and visible name tags on all officers.
  • Departments that reflect the diversity of the neighborhoods they serve.
  • An end to departmental practices that measure a police officer’s performance by the number of stops and arrests.
  • Consolidation of county police departments.
  • Cultural diversity training for law enforcement departments.​

Project Implementation 

  • CRC acted as a sanctuary when the non-indictment was announced (Sanctuaries were set up to be equipped with spiritual, psychological, medical, and legal support as well as food and other supplies. These sanctuaries were for protesters expressing their support for the movement and not for those who may use a volatile situation for their own personal gain).
  • CRC lead de-escalation training for clergy throughout the St. Louis area.
  • CRC gathered  20- something members to volunteer at a community fair for children of Ferguson where they provided food and games.
  • One of their members, who owns a summer camp, opened his camp up to children in the Ferguson Florissant School District for a weekend of the great outdoors, campfires and smores.
  • CRC established a Truth and Reconciliation coalition.
  • CRC hosted a Social Responsibility Shabbat service with speakers, poets and musicians from the movement, and over 300 people attended. 
  • CRC is gathering a coalition that includes the Jewish community and business leaders in the area in order to create a community resource center for jobs. They are first doing an assessment with the people who will be served, in order to hear what they feel they need. 

Results

Although much of the work is still yet to be done, CRC has become the face of the Jewish protest movement in Ferguson and engaged many members of the community. They have continued to stay involved as the movement marches on. Their involvement has challenged people in the congregation to think about how they have treated congregants of color poorly in the past and it has helped them to address their our own internalized racism. It has also increased participation in congregational activities and services.