An introduction from Rev. Meg Riley:
Rev. Terri is on vacation this week. In her stead, we share these words, which were a public Facebook post from Carin Mrotz, Executive Director at Jewish Action Center. The synagogue referenced is Shir Tikvah, which for decades has gathered in the building at 50th and Girard which used to house First Universalist Church. Plenty for us UUs to think about!
This evening, I attended the rally in South Minneapolis at the site of the murder of George Floyd. The crowd, when I was there, was peaceful. A woman wove through socially distanced protestors handing out free masks to those who needed them, though everyone I saw was wearing their own. A tall black man was spraying the ground at our feet with essential oils – lavender and rosemary. He read my sign (I am a Jew marching for George Floyd) and asked if I’d been to Israel. I told him no, and he responded that he’d lived there for 3 and half years, he told me that in Israel rosemary like we were smelling just then grew in enormous bushes.
As I sat in my car getting ready to leave, I checked my email and found one from my synagogue, a notice telling the congregation that there’d been graffiti found on the bus stop bench on our corner. It read, “Seig Heil, Heil Hitler, Trump 2020.” The neighbors who saw it called the police. The JCRC had been notified, the building walked, everything seemed fine. There is always a new threat, calm seems elusive these days. I rubbed my temples, I have a headache and I’ve been grinding my teeth.
When I got home, I got back online to see live video of the rally, now under fire as police – rows and rows of police in riot gear – fired tear gas, sprayed mace with reckless abandon, shot rubber bullets into the crowd. It had rained, everyone was soaked and were now under attack.
I’m fine tonight. I’m home on the Northside, where 5 years ago police killed Jamar Clark and where the community occupied the police precinct and demanded justice for weeks. I organized Jews to show up then. And then in 2016 after the police killed Philando Castile. And likely Jewish Community Action, and I, will organize Jews in Minnesota to respond to this murder. To call on our county attorney to demand charges be pressed, and to fight at the state and local levels for systemic criminal justice reform, to stand alongside our partners as allies. All of that will come. The state is killing black men and it’s everyone’s problem. We’ll need you to get involved.
In the meantime, for tonight, if I could tell white Jews one thing, it’s this: Ask yourself what you would do if you found antisemitic graffiti at your shul, or if you felt afraid. Who would you call? If your first impulse, if your reflexes say “police,” I want you to spend some time thinking about that, how the very thing you might instinctively seek out to feel safer has the potential to cause fatal injury to someone else. And grapple with that. Wrestle with knowing that the tool you reach for could kill your neighbor. And then pledge to rethink what’s in our community’s collective toolbox.
Thank you to Karen Wills, Executive Director of MUUSJA (Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance) for compiling the following lists of resources:
Some Resources for UU Congregations
This weekly pastoral message by the Interim Ministry Team comes out on Wednesdays. Rev. Meg, Rev. Terri and Arif will take turns writing or recording a video.