Resolution on Racial Injustice and Police Brutality

Posted on: Wednesday April 6, 2016

Whereas it is the responsibility of all Americans to fight racism, both conscious and unconscious, not only in history, but in our time.  Not only in the wider world but within the Jewish community; and

Whereas the Jewish community is multi-racial, therefore issues that disproportionately impact people of color negatively impact our congregations, our family members and our neighbors, both Jewish and non-Jewish; and

Whereas Jews, as a people, have throughout our history experienced discrimination, segregation, and at different times throughout history have been both devalued and dehumanized by police authorities; and

Whereas police officers are often caught in a difficult bind, charged to implement harsh enforcement policies, often in extremely stressful and at times dangerous situations.  We envision a future where violent encounters between police and civilians are extremely rare.

Whereas nearly one thousand people in America are killed by police every year. Sixty percent of those victims did not have a gun or were killed for behaviors that should not have resulted in death; and

Whereas black teenage males were 21 times more likely to be killed by police than white teenage males. Unarmed black men were seven times more likely to be killed by police than unarmed white men. and

Whereas common policies, such as aggressive policing and lack of community representation on police forces, often negatively impact people of color, leading to the use of racial profiling, a disproportionate number of deaths of people of color at the hands of police, as well as a crisis of mass incarceration, whereby the prison population has increased by 500 percent over the past 30 years -- reaching over 2 million people, more than 60% of whom are  people of color; and

Whereas our Torah teaches that each individual is created B’Tzelem Elohim, in God’s image (Gen. 1:27); and

Whereas, the Torah also teaches that we cannot stand by idly as we witness the blood of our neighbors (Lev. 19:16) and

Therefore, it be resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon synagogues across the country to form deep, meaningful, year-round relationships with local communities across lines of faith and race, to better understand the issues that impact the entire community and to be in solidarity with movements for racial justice. 

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage synagogues to include and invest in Jews of Color to help lead these endeavors and help shape and increase community understanding and impact; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage synagogues to seek out quality methods, including training and facilitation, in order to have important internal conversations about race.

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call on rabbis to form relationships with local leadership and local law enforcement to strengthen relationships for the purpose of working together to limit the use of force and change the approach to law enforcement so that it serves and protects all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity. We call on community leaders to:

  • End “broken windows” policing which would include de-prioritizing the enforcement of certain activities that do not threaten public safety, establishing protections against profiling, and offer alternatives to mental health crises so that they do not have a fatal end

  • Establish civilian oversight boards that have discipline power so that law enforcement officers are accountable to the communities in which they work

  • Offer independent investigators and prosecutors so that the same justice officials who are colleagues and co-workers with officers are not the ones who are also investigating their actions

  • Implement body cameras for all police officers, for the sake of officers and civilians, so that all actions between an officer and another individual are on public record; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call on legislators at the national, state and local levels to pass legislations aimed at reducing the historically high levels of our prison population, through the implementation of community-based policing, smarter sentencing, and better post-incarceration programs for those returning to society.