St. Louis Jews react to Chauvin guilty verdict


April 20, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Crowds at Hennepin Government Center after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Floyd died on May 25, 2020 while in police custody. A video showing Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck sparked world wide protests against police brutality.. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Jordan Palmer, Director of Digital Communications

Jews all across the world are reacting to Tuesday’s jury verdict on former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, touched off massive worldwide protests, violence and an examination of U.S. race relations and police conduct in the last year. The Jewish community—active in civil rights and with a long history of black-Jewish ties—reacted with outrage over Floyd’s death, one of a number of high-profile cases nationwide.

Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Congregation Shaare Emeth

“This week, the Jewish community is studying the Torah portion, Kedoshim, in which we read the verse, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds” (Lev. 19:16).”

“For far too long, our nation has stood idly by or turned a blind eye or actively participated in devaluing, criminalizing and killing people of color. The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was one small step forward in our communities holding ourselves accountable to the value of justice we purport.”

“But I believe that justice will truly be served when we begin to dismantle a racist criminal justice system and build in its place a system that centers equity, inclusion and compassion for the pain of the oppressed.”

Rabbi Randy Fleisher of Central Reform Congregation

“I remember the incredible disappointment I felt the night that the grand jury in St. Louis decided not to hold the officer who killed Michael Brown accountable. So, I was especially relieved when Derek Chauvin was found guilty.”

“Relieved that millions of people stood up for the humanity of George Floyd; relieved that other police officers decided to testify to Chauvin’s brutality; relieved that there is finally a growing awareness of the insidious bias and unequal people of color face day to day; and relieved that the jury agreed that ‘George Floyd’s heart was not too big, but tragically, Derek Chauvin’s heart was too small.'”

“Relief that should give us all the strength we need to continue doing the vital mitzvah of pursuing racial justice.”

Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis

“I think we have to remember that this is ultimately a case in which one man lost his life and now another man is going to be going to prison, and there is no happy ending that comes from any of that.

What we hope is that there is continued necessary conversation around police reform, that this case has highlighted the profound brokenness of the systems we have in place and the deep need for our community to do internal reflection on where we are and how we can help move forward with the necessary reforms.”

“Our JCRC has a Jewish coalition on racial equity that has a subcommittee that is working on specific policy issues, supporting initiatives that are taking place in Jefferson City, including [State Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City) has a bill that passed in the [Missouri State Senate] to ban chokeholds in Missouri.

“Some of these are just individual steps, but there are real changes that are happening, many of which have bipartisan support.”

Rabbi Garth Silberstein, Bais Abraham Congregation

“I feel relief. It seems clear that in this case at least, justice has been served, but I also am aware that our responsibility for pursuing justice doesn’t stop with the prosecution of one criminal but in making sure that we continue to work towards a society where injustice is not tolerated or condoned.

“We live in a very racially-segregated city, and as a Jewish community which is mostly but not entirely white, I think we can make sure that we are constantly working to build bridges across lots of difference to try to listen to and understand — especially those of us who are white — to understand the experience of people of color in this community and understand what they see as the most pressing needs in building a more just community here in St. Louis.”

We’ll continue to update this story as more reactions come in.