4 years ago • Jun 19, 2020

Happy Freedom Day

Today is Juneteenth, a day to celebrate the abolition of slavery and Black people’s fight for liberation in the United States. The day commemorates the date, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that slavery had been abolished. (To learn more about the origins of the holiday, here’s a short history.)

We are inspired by the growing movement, now swelling across the country, to achieve justice and equity for Black Americans, and we are committed to the work of uprooting the white supremacy that remains deeply entrenched in our systems and institutions. To that end, we’re happy to share some resources for learning and actions taking place over the weekend—which you can join on the street or from your own home:

Tonight we will honor Juneteenth during our Kabbalat Shabbat services as we are joined by Reverend Michael-Ray Mathews, Deputy Director for Faith in Action and Auburn Senior Fellow. Rev. Mathews is a friend of our community, and the host of the Prophetic Resistance Podcast, where he engages multi-faith leaders in conversations about cultivating communities of belonging and sacred resistance to injustice. (You can hear his conversation with Rabbi Brous here.) Rev. Mathews is president of the Alliance of Baptists, a progressive movement for justice and healing, and a prophetic voice for love and justice. We hope you’ll join us tonight to hear him, to learn and celebrate.

Other actions we recommend:

  1. The Poor People’s Campaign national call for moral revival led by Rev. Dr. William Barber and with Rabbi Brous. The PPC will air on Saturday, June 20, and then again on Sunday, June 21, out of respect for our Jewish community.
  2. We invite you to recite a Kaddish for Black Lives during this Shabbat. See the text of Jewish Multiracial Network’s “Black Lives Kaddish, written by IKAR Board Member Eric Greene. We will be reciting it at IKAR both tonight and tomorrow, in honor of Juneteenth.
  3. Bend the Arc is holding a weekend of action in coordination with the Movement for Black Lives.
  4. LA Works has an excellent list of volunteer opportunities for folks who want to support the protests and to help in Black communities.
  5. Celebrations and rallies and are going on around Los Angeles this weekend.
  6. And of course we hope you’ll get involved in IKAR’s Minyan Tzedek Community Organizing work, and help us take on campaigns for real change in our city and country.

We are committed to working for racial justice not only in our city, but also within our community. A year ago, our taskforce on Racial Justice and Inclusion offered—and our Board unanimously adopted—a series of recommendations to help us become not only a more inclusive and welcoming community,  but also an explicitly anti-racist community.

Since then, we have taken significant steps to recruit Jews of Color to our Board and staff, and to develop a pipeline for lay leaders and professionals that more accurately reflect the composition of the Jewish community and the city of Los Angeles. Last week we signed on to a bold, aspirational call for Jewish communal organizations to take explicit steps toward greater equity, co-written by our Board Member Rachel Sumekh. There is a lot of work still to be done, and we believe that this must be a time for audacious, aspirational thinking, for a reimagining of what is possible, and then for taking concrete steps toward the achievement of those goals.

If you are a Person of Color in our IKAR family, we’d love to help connect you to other JOC and POC in our community. Reach out and we’ll happily make the connection.

We are heartened that the call to reparations for Black Americans is now being lifted up nation-wide, among many efforts to address the roots of racism and inequality in our nation. Several years ago, Rabbi Brous made the case for Jewish communal support for reparations for Black Americans in her Rosh Hashanah sermon, and later published an Op-Ed in the LA Times to that affect. We will continue to work with partners to support this effort at the state and federal levels.

We wish you all a happy Juneteenth! As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “Nobody is free until everybody’s free.” May the struggle for freedom and dignity, equity and equality for Black Americans and People of Color help all of us, and our nation, step closer to the fulfillment of the great dream of a world redeemed.

With blessings,
Melissa Balaban (CEO)
Rabbi Sharon Brous
Brooke Wirtschafter (Director of Community Organizing)