Black lives matter. We begin here with this most fundamental acknowledgement of the inherent worth of your existence, the recognition of your most basic humanity, and the fact that we are all created in the image of the divine (b’tselem elohim). And we say this with a heavy heart knowing that these words need to be said because they have not always felt true. Our Jewish community has failed itself in failing its own members — in allowing our spaces to feel unwelcome and unsafe and in perpetuating language and stereotypes that deem Jews who do not present as white to be seen as “Other.” Most of all, we have failed by allowing ourselves to remain ignorant of this, unable to see the racism that has existed in our own structures.
And yet, in spite of all of this, you maintain a deep love and commitment to our Jewish community.
Thank you for inviting us in to join you in re-imagining our collective Jewish covenant.
We, the leadership of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, recognize that even with all of our efforts and aspirations, there is racism within our Jewish community. We commit ourselves to the long and difficult work of combatting this.
We have read your open letter and we are so grateful that you have provided our Jewish community with a roadmap for this work.
Our Federation and JCRC are committed to bringing together leadership of Jewish organizations across our community to study your calls to action and determine how to realize this bold new future. We recognize that there are parts of this plan that will be challenging and that there are pieces that make us uncomfortable, and we pledge to sit in that discomfort and understand it as a call to learn more and to listen. We will include Jews of Color in these conversations and in the ongoing work. And we will make this process transparent to allow the wider community to engage.
Our sages teach that study is greater than action only in that deep study must ultimately lead to action. We are prepared to do this introspective work, and we are prepared to act.
We will make mistakes along the way. We already have. We will come up short at times. We already have. But we remain committed to the process, to your voices and the voices of other Jews of Color, and to our collective Jewish covenant.
Heeding the words of Rabbi Tarfon your call evokes, we might not complete the work, but we will not desist from it.
Greg Yawitz, Board Chair, Jewish Federation of St. Louis
Joe Pereles, Board Chair, Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis
Brian Herstig, President and CEO, Jewish Federation of St. Louis
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis