Reform Jewish Leaders on Capitol Insurrection and White Supremacy

January 7, 2021

WASHINGTON - Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Yolanda Savage-Narva, director for Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Union for Reform Judaism, released the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and wider Reform Movement:

The reprehensible actions by insurrectionists at the US Capitol building yesterday will not soon be forgotten. White nationalists – some of whom were carrying confederate flags or wearing antisemitic t-shirts – were not just protesting, they were attacking our government to stop a democratic process from taking place. Sadly, one of the most disingenuous responses to yesterday’s events was to create a false moral equivalence with the Black Lives Matters protests over the last year.

Let’s be clear: The white nationalists were attempting to undermine our government while Black Lives Matter protesters were demanding to be included in our democracy.

This summer as thousands of people of Color and their allies gathered in peaceful protest at Washington, DC’s Lafayette Park in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, President Trump decided to stage a photo op at nearby church. Within minutes, law enforcement had unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the space. A couple of miles away, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial were filled with members of the armed forces deployed to face the perceived threat of Black and Brown Americans and their white allies calling peacefully for an end to generations of systemic racism.

The difference between this summer’s events and the response to yesterday’s violent, seditious attack on the Capitol building is a shocking but unsurprising example of systemic, hypocritical racism, antisemitism, and white supremacy.

The images of an armed mob, many dressed in militia-style clothing rampaging through the halls of Congress, are shocking and sickening. Offices were vandalized and artifacts were stolen. Members of Congress and staff barricaded doors and hid under desks. Many prayed for their lives.

Despite the unprecedented chaos and threat, police made few arrests. The mob inside was corralled and escorted out of the building.  The treatment of the overwhelmingly white terrorists was tame. The lessons of yesterday’s events will be studied for generations, but one is already clear: white proponents of lies about stolen elections get a very different response than do condemnations of real, ongoing systemic racism that results in the disproportionate killings of People of Color and men in particular.

Yesterday’s mob was not a group of protesters. They were, at best, insurrectionists. They shook our democracy to its core. Never before has the world seen the U.S. Capitol stormed by a group determined to supplant the will of American voters as expressed at the ballot box with their own. But yesterday we saw once again the power of white privilege.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit for more.