Jewish community demonstrates solidarity with Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church

Courtesy @JewishChas via Twitter

In an extraordinary display of unity, a broad cross-section of American Jewish organizations have joined to declare this coming Shabbat, beginning the evening of June 26 and ending the evening of June 27, to be a “Shabbat of solidarity with the African-American community.”

The June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine church members were killed by a white supremacist, spurred this call, which was issued on June 23. Congregations were urged to reach out to AME churches with expressions of support.

Several congregations in the South are doing events to mark the Shabbat of solidarity, but the number able to do so was limited by the time of year as well as the short time frame. In some cases, retiring or relocating rabbis have already left congregations, while many other rabbis are on vacation or at their movements’ summer camps.

The organizations who have endorsed this call to action include: Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbinical Council of America, Orthodox Union, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, in association with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the Rabbinic Cabinet of Jewish Federations of North America, AJC, Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Hillel.

In New Orleans, Anshe Sfard will have a program following the 9:15 a.m. service. Around 11:30 a.m., Rabbi David Polsky will speak briefly on “Anger and Understanding.”

After that, Rev. Keith J. Sanders, pastor of Union Bethel AME Church in Central City will speak. At the conclusion of the program, there will be a Kiddush lunch.

Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will welcome Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, to speak at the 9:30 a.m. service on June 27.

Douglas serves on the boards of several non-profits and has published articles on human rights, community organizing and social change in Social Policy, Southern Exposure, and the Howard Law School Journal.

Huntsville’s Temple B’nai Sholom will have a solidarity Shabbat with lay leader Mary Dougherty giving a talk about the Jewish response to racism. The June 26 service is at 7 p.m.

B’nai Sholom Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar, who is on maternity leave, called the shooting in Charleston an “atrocity” and noted that “As a Jewish congregation in the South we have an added obligation to make ourselves aware of the legacy of racism, and when possible to act appropriately in response.”

Beth Israel in Metairie and Knesseth Israel in Birmingham are also planning to take part in the effort.

“The Jewish community has long-standing historic ties with the African American community going back to the Civil Rights era,” explained Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland, convener of the coalition and president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America. “This Shabbat of solidarity is just the latest example of us standing together in the face of bigotry and hatred. We stand together, as a united American Jewish community in calling for a Shabbat of important introspection and examination of racism in the United States. We hope to convey our support to the African-American community nationwide and show all that we will not stand for violent acts driven by hatred.”