By Community Staff
Jewish Louisville has joined the calls for reforms following the killings of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and it is joining efforts to address the structural inequalities that have existed for a centuries in Black communities.
Jews have taken to the streets and to the internet to voice their outrage. They are protesting as individuals, joining community marches such as one organized by Interfaith Paths to Peace, and forming social justice groups. They are reaching out to community leaders and acting in solidarity.
The Federation hosted a community conversation for young people, moderated by Judge Derwin Webb, featuring professional athletes Jamon Brown, Reggie Bonnafon, and Larry O’Bannon, all West End of Louisville natives. They talked about growing up Black in Louisville and the challenges faced because of the color of their skin. Kevin Trager, a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), hosted the program.
“We are so fortunate to have members of the Black community willing to give their time and share their stories and experiences with young Jewish men and women whom they’ve never even met,” Trager said. “I think listening is one of the most important things we can do right now.”
The JCRC joined the calls for passage of Breonna’s Law, which will end the practice of no-knock search warrants and require the use of body cameras. Metro Council passed the bill two weeks ago and Mayor Greg Fischer signed it into law.
When 50 community organizations, led by the Louisville Urban League, submitted a petition to the city on June 19 demanding action on several issues facing the Black community, it went with Jewish support.
This “path forward,” as it is called, is a comprehensive document created with community input that identifies the problems plaguing the Black communities…not only unequal treatment by the police, but deficiencies in healthcare, and structural inequities in housing, jobs and education.
“This is a comprehensive document from the black community and we felt it imperative that we lend our voice,” said JCRC Director Matt Goldberg. “It is important that we stand as allies with our friends and neighbors in the Black community, and they need our support in the quest for fundamental change.”
As of this publication, the Jewish Family & Career Services, National Council of Jewish Women-Louisville Section, and Rabbis Beth Jacowitz Chottiner and Robert Slosberg had signed on to the petition.
“The one consistent message we hear from Black community leaders is we the need to educate ourselves to the systematic racism that exists and the need to act on that by voting and supporting actions that address these underlying issues,” Goldberg said.
In addition, rabbis have taken to their virtual bimas to address the current challenge, and have invited speakers from the Black community to speak to their congregants.
Two Jewish social justice groups, Bend the Arc and Jews for Justice and Immigration (JJI), have increased their visibility in Louisville since the shootings.
Bend the Arc, a national social justice organization for young Jewish adults, is establishing a presence in Louisville, making the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement its prime focus here (see story this page). Another group, Jewish Louisville for Black Lives, is organizing on Facebook.
A locally homegrown organization, JJI has also been active in the protests. Its members have been attending BLM protests and other events, including the interfaith prayer vigil sponsored by Interfaith Paths for Peace.
Avery Kolers, a member of JJI, said he is taking part in the protests because Judaism teaches it.
“I think it’s my responsibility,” he said. “I think Jewish tradition teaches … that when someone is treated inequitably, then it’s the responsibility of everyone to affirm the full equality of each other. How do I affirm that? By being there when asked to be there to affirm it.”
Want to help?
Here are web and email addresses for entities taking an active role in the fight for racial justice:
Jewish Federation of Louisville – jewishlouisville.org
Go Vote Kentucky – govoteky.com
Jewish Family and Career Services www.jfcslouisville.org
Louisville Urban League – lul.org
LHOME — lhomeky.org/
Bend the Arc — bendthearc.us/
Jews for Justice in Immigration — @LouisvilleJJI (Twitter), JJILouisville (Facebook)
Simmons University — simmons.edu/
Jewish Louisville for Black Lives – (private Facebook group)
Synergy Project — leanintolouisville.org/synergyproject/
EmpowerWest — empowerwest.com/
The Bail Project – bailproject.org