Progressively Speaking: We’re all witnesses to George Floyd’s murder
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Progressively Speaking: We’re all witnesses to George Floyd’s murder

Interim director of Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Charley Baginsky, looks at a topical issue and provides a progressive response

People at a Black Lives Matter protest rally outside the US Embassy in Dublin following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, US. Gardai are investigating the protest in Dublin over alleged lockdown breaches.
People at a Black Lives Matter protest rally outside the US Embassy in Dublin following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, US. Gardai are investigating the protest in Dublin over alleged lockdown breaches.

 On one of our Facebook groups for clergy, an American rabbi tried to articulate her shock following the murder of George Floyd. She noted that it reached the proof required by the rabbis of old for a murder conviction.

Why is this significant? Simply put, I had the same thought when watching the horrific film of Mr Floyd dying before our eyes.

As young students of Jewish law, even before we set foot in rabbinical college, we were taught this was an almost impossible proof.

The act of murder had to be witnessed by at least two people and then they had to warn them to stop.

It is not enough to think we are in another country, that the fight is not our fight, that we have our own troubles. We are all witnesses now. We have seen and we cannot unsee.

Here in the UK, there have been demonstrations not only showing solidarity with the US protesters, but also expressing anger at the increased use of stop and search during lockdown in areas with large black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) populations.

Many of the spontaneous protestors have said they wanted to “shine a spotlight on the impact of institutional racism in the UK”.

The emotion is high, communities have been affected not only by this unlawful murder in the US, but here by Grenfell, by the Windrush scandal and by the disproportionate numbers of BAME deaths during the Covid-19 epidemic.

Lockdown has been awful for so many; lonely, scary and, for too many, a period of mourning.

But it has also been a time when we have seen there are striking differences in the reality of life in which segments of our society live.

It is our obligation as Liberal Jews to draw attention to that, to demand change, to put our words into action.

Our Jewish community has been great at coming together and ensuring people are fed and cared for, within our community and outside.

But we are being called to do more – to raise the issues of institutional racism and unfairness and inequality loudly, to see it as our
own fight.

We are all witnesses now.

We have seen and cannot unsee.

  •  Rabbi Charley Baginsky is interim director of Liberal Judaism

 

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