What Jewish Louisville learned this past year should change us

JCRC Scene
Matt Goldberg

This past year has been remarkable for many reasons.
The pandemic has dominated our hearts and minds. We have reconnected with loved ones, mourned lost friends and family and adjusted to a new normal of living with the COVID reality.
We also elected a new president, saw our government under siege by violent insurrectionists, and dealt with an unhealthy partisan divide that makes civil discourse in this country – agreement on basic facts – a rarity.
For Louisvillians, though, a look back at the last 12 months must include the fight for racial justice that was sparked by the killing of Breonna Taylor.
We worked with the Urban League to craft A Path Forward, a comprehensive document that addressed structural inequities in criminal justice reform, housing, jobs, health care and business development. We believe it is important to lend our support and allyship to these issues.
We also had some powerful moments in the Zoom programs we hosted. Our first featured Judge Derwin Webb, moderating a discussion among Louisville professional athletes Jamon Brown, Reggie Bonnafon and Larry O’Bannon about racial inequality.
Something from that program that will always stay with me was the athletes’ description of “the talk,” the coming-of-age conversation Black parents have with their sons about how to behave around the police to ensure their safety. It is a foreign concept to most Jews, but it happens in most Black homes with young men. That the talk is even necessary speaks volumes about life for people of color.
In our program on women in the Black community, we heard from Alice Houston, Keshia Swan and Jackie McGranahan as they discussed something seemingly mundane as hair and the role it plays in their identity. This month, the City of Louisville passed the CROWN Act, which ensures protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles (something we would like to see at the state and federal level as well). This issue should resonate with the Jewish community; we have a long history of being discriminated against due to our outward appearance.
This past year, our goal was to educate our community on these important issues. As we move forward, let us turn these lessons into action.
Our commitment to tikkun olam (repair the world) is the root of our quest for justice; the events of last year should command us to act in addressing race-based inequality. May the future be brighter for all of us as we continue seek justice.

(Matt Goldberg is the director of the Jewish Community Relations Community.)

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