Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council Supports Communities of Color

It’s been a difficult and emotional week. A recap of our outreach to the Black community:

1. Our Community Relations Council issued a statement in solidarity with the Black community on Sunday.

We are heartbroken by the senseless and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis several days ago. We stand with the African American community and all communities of color in mourning the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others who have lost their lives simply because of the color of their skin. We commend Pittsburgh Chief of Police Scott Schubert for speaking out against this atrocity and for taking steps to use it as a teachable moment at the Pittsburgh Police Academy.

We recognize that the riots in downtown Pittsburgh yesterday were sparked largely by those who are not part of any community of color and who are seeking to widen the racial divide throughout the region. Unfortunately, the Jewish community is all too familiar with how it feels to be targeted simply because we are different while simultaneously being scapegoated by the perpetrators of violence. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with, listen to and learn from our partners in the African American community and law enforcement to make Pittsburgh a more equitable, safe and inclusive place for all who live here.

2. We marched in solidarity at an Interfaith Prayer & Protest.

3. We officially went public with the 412 Black Jewish Collaborative.

Like our newly launched Facebook page. For the full story of the Collaborative, see our June 4 post titled “Who We Are and Our Call to Action.”

A little over a year ago, a handful of Black and Jewish Pittsburghers traveled to Georgia and Alabama to participate together in a Civil Rights Mission to the South. Our goal, beyond learning about the history of Black people in America in a tangible, meaningful way, was simple: to get proximate. The term speaks to the idea of being close, of stepping beyond comfort levels to foster new relationships, to familiarize oneself with history, and to get involved in the present day to forge solutions.

Out of our proximity with and fondness for one another, we launched the 412 Black Jewish Collaborative (412BJC) in the summer of 2019 and invited a few of our trusted friends and colleagues into the group. Our plan was to grow slowly and create strong relationships rooted in friendship before opening up the Collaborative to the broader Pittsburgh community.

In 2020, we intended to hold our first public programs: a happy hour to bring together young Black and Jewish leaders from across the city, followed by a second Civil Rights Mission to the South shortly thereafter. We had plans for a Freedom Seder around Passover, a conversation around Juneteenth, and a conference at the end of the year. With the Covid pandemic, we decided to postpone our programming. But after the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, on top of so many other names we do not know, we can’t afford to wait any longer.

4. Our Community Relations Council published a National Op-Ed in the Forward.

In partnership with several other Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country, we published: “Dear Jewish Community, Here’s What To Do Now.” We can’t emphasize enough the importance of following the lead of Black organizers. Just as our Jewish community gets to determine how we understand anti-Semitism and how we want our partners to respond, so too those who are most impacted by these policies must have our support in defining the response.

5. We are in the process of compiling resources.

We’re compiling resources for the Jewish community on how to be an ally. Additionally, we continue to be in touch with our Black community partners and will let you know as more initiatives develop.

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