Dear Shames JCC Members & Friends,
I am reaching out to you today heartbroken and outraged. Like you, I have been watching the news surrounding the brutal and senseless murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests taking place in communities across the country. Together, we are remembering countless others, named and unnamed, who have been targeted because of the color of their skin. I share in our community’s deep frustration over the unconscionable racism, bigotry, discrimination, and injustice that endures in our country.
The Shames JCC was built upon a foundation of inclusivity, equality, and openness. Our Jewish values of loving kindness, helping to repair the world, respect, and charity transcend race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, religion, and background. We have always opened our doors, physically and metaphorically, to anyone and everyone who seeks a place in our community, and we take great pride in the array of people that make up our membership and those we serve.
Until now, we have thought this to be enough. It’s time to look again.
I believe we are all part of a great awakening. We are being pressed to open our eyes and ears and take a long, deep look at who we are and how we must do things differently if real change is to come. We must commit to the work it takes to find, acknowledge, and confront institutionalized racism and injustice in our community, and in our country.
My friend and colleague, CEO of the JCC Association of North America, Doron Krakow, reminded me of the following words of Elie Wiesel, z”l, “a Holocaust survivor and symbol of the Jewish people’s triumph over evil during the worst period of vicious anti-Semitism in history.” This is an excerpt from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986:
I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.
Moving forward, we will strive to serve as a home—a beacon— for dialogue, understanding, and social discourse. In doing so, we will do the long-overdue work of actively engaging and providing voice to the voiceless. Please join me in the commitment to face these difficult issues head on and leverage the power of our incredible community to make sure that every life and every voice matters.
Now is the time to put words into action.
Leslie Meyers, Executive Director