4 years ago • Jun 11, 2020

Rabbi Sharon Brous’s Remarks to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin

Rabbi Sharon Brous

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin held a video conference with Jewish community leaders on what is currently going on in America and in Israel. Here are Rabbi Sharon Brous’s remarks.

לכבוד הוא לי הנשיא ריבלין–

It is an honor to be with you again, President Rivlin. I am grateful for your willingness to hear and be in real dialogue with the American Jewish community. General Ashkenazi, I want you to know that the speech that you gave at Auschwitz several years ago was one of the most impactful I have heard: “The fact that an independent Jewish state exists is not to be taken for granted.” Indeed.

America today is convulsing at the intersection of multiple crises.

Against the backdrop of serious and credible threats to our democracy from forces both foreign and domestic working to undermine our elections in November, the global health crisis emerged in the spring. Now, in United States, there are more than two million cases of the virus, with more than 114,000 people dead. As you know, we in America, with all of our resources, were woefully unprepared and suffered from a lack of personal protective equipment, no testing plan, and a national culture war that provoked resistance not only to closures recommended by public health officials, but even to masking.

And so the virus rages here, disproportionately ravaging the Black community and poor communities, where people are least likely to access tests and treatments, and most likely to get sick and to die.

And then, 16 days ago, yet another crisis erupted when the video of the murder of George Floyd revealed to the country and the world the perverseness and pervasiveness of racism in American culture. In 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the veil was pulled back on four centuries of state-sanctioned policies of brutal suppression and control of Black bodies.

The movement rising today is based on simple call: Justice. Equity. Equality. An honest reckoning with the deep roots of white supremacy in our nation. And the courage to reimagine what might be possible.

This is a scary and tumultuous time, but it’s also a generative time. At the intersection of these three crises: threat to democracy, pandemic, and racism, America is finally being born into a true multiracial democracy.

It’s important that you know that Jewish Americans are part of this movement. We are in the streets demanding justice for Black Lives. We see that the cause is just and know that our liberation is tied up in one another’s. And we know that standing in solidarity with those who are oppressed—in this case Black people, including Black Jews—is a Jewish call. A Torah imperative.

Now you asked us to share honestly how we are holding this moment, and our concerns for both America and Israel, so I must share that I—and many American Jews—am deeply concerned about the new tragedy unfolding in my beloved Israel with plans for annexation to begin next month. Annexation will formalize Israel’s control over millions of Palestinians who lack citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote in the country in which they live.

Please know: this is a moment of global awakening. At the heart of our faith is the belief that all human beings are created in God’s own image, and the world aches for this belief to be made manifest. Calls for equality and justice are ringing through the streets not only of cities across the United States, but across continents, and they will ring there too.

I desperately pray that this moment can be one of serious heshbon hanefesh—deep, honest reflection—for all of us, as individuals, communities and nations, as we reckon with the past, align the present with our core values, and dream together of a shared future.