Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen, JTS on Racial Injustice

The JTS community is horrified and saddened by the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others who have come before. This is a devastating and dangerous moment in our country, the history of which is so stained by racial injustice. This injustice has been on dramatic, public display—from the disproportionate rate of COVID-19 deaths to the pervasive racism in many areas of public life.

We believe that every person and institution must assume responsibility to create a more equitable and just society. Jewish tradition forbids us to remain silent in the face of racial injustice. “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” (Leviticus 19:16).

We know that these three recent murders, and so many others, have caused acute pain in the Black community, in the Black Jewish community, and among many in our broader American society. We must acknowledge this pain and respond in every way we can.

We call on each member of the JTS community, and the entire Jewish community, to do all in their power to respond to this moment of crisis by taking action to build a more just world. We can lift our voices, train our students, and work in partnership with alumni, lay leaders, and our friends and family in the Black community.

We commit to participating in, hosting, and facilitating the difficult conversations that will be the necessary first steps in beginning to repair the brokenness of our society. The moral voice of JTS must and will be heard loudly at this moment of national crisis. This is core to who we are as a community and as a Jewish institution. Our political leaders must act with similar resolve to ease suffering, heal wounds, and promote the cause of justice.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminded us pointedly that “morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty but all are responsible.”