FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2021
WASHINGTON – In response to the jury’s guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, Jr., Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform movement institutions:
Today's jury decision finding Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts ends an important chapter in the pursuit of justice for George Floyd and his family. Yet the national outcry for racial justice sparked by George Floyd’s murder continues across the United States and world as we pursue an end to the systemic racism that disproportionately claims the lives of Black people, and men in particular.
The racist systems that have endured for more than 400 years perpetuate the brutalization of People of Color – including, all too often, by law enforcement. The heartbreaking fact is no verdict or sentence can bring back George Floyd to the loving arms of his family, nor all those who are killed by police. What today’s verdict can and must do is affirm that those who take human life callously must be held accountable for their actions.
It is deeply painful that in just the last two weeks, not far from where George Floyd was killed, we again witnessed the horrific continuation of these systemic injustices in the murder of Daunte Wright. He joined a generations-long, tragic community that includes George Floyd, Adam Toledo, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and all those whose lives have been so cruelly and violently taken. As Reform Jews and people of faith, believing all are created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, we demand an end to the systemic targeting of Black and Brown people by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Jews are currently counting the omer, the days between Passover and Shavuot, which commemorates the Israelites' journey from slavery to freedom and revelation. This journey was set in motion only when God heard the cries of the Israelites and remembered God's promise of liberation for them. Our Black and Brown siblings, Jewish and non-Jewish, have been crying out for racial justice for centuries and those of us with any power, in any community, must hear this call. Our sages remind us in Pirkei Avot, "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." We shall not desist from the struggle for racial justice. Those of us who are white can no longer stand idly by while we benefit from systems that oppress Black and Brown people. Now is the time for personal and systemic accountability.
We pray for comfort for George Floyd’s family and for all those who mourn with them. And we reaffirm our commitment to doing everything that we can do to make our institutions, communities, and nations more racially just for future generations.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the social justice office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.8 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.RAC.org for more.