In the Abrahamic tradition, we place a great emphasis on prophets—those people through whom God gave the ability to name the truth clearly when no one else could see it. Before the exile to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah mourns the oppression and injustice that has taken root in Jerusalem. “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly; they have called ‘Peace, peace’, but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14 NRSV) The people have fallen in love with injustice, and worse, their leaders assure them that everything is fine while they carry out their oppression. But God sees the pain of the wounded and hears the cry of the suffering. God responds.
The events of the past few weeks have again spotlighted the fact that the United States, since its founding, has rested on the historic and continuing wrong of white supremacy, and that this pernicious evil continues to threaten and harm the children of God in this land.
When we see the unequal effects of the corona pandemic, we see the sin of racism. When we see the unequal effects of the economic crash, we see the sin of racism. And most particularly, we see the sin of racism in the continuing police brutality against black and brown people. We see it in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey, Tony McDade, and so many others.
We, as religious leaders, unequivocally affirm that Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with the protesters and organizers around the country who march for justice. We call for an end to police brutality and to state-sponsored violence. We pledge to work for an end to white supremacy, both in our congregations and in our community.
We like Jeremiah know a God who calls us to speak the hard truth, to acknowledge our culpability in systems of oppression, and ultimately, to bring hope and relief to those who suffer. The command for us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” appears in Leviticus 19, a text revered by all Abrahamic traditions. It is a cornerstone of rabbinic commentary, a core Islamic value expressed throughout the Qur’an and Hadith, and central to the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, and we as religious leaders affirm that this as our primary motivation for what we say and what we do. We believe that it is only through this commanded, costly love—through committing ourselves to the difficult, lifelong work of dismantling white supremacy, especially as embedded in our law enforcement and legal systems, will we come to the promised, healed world God intends.
Scott Glass, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Beth-El
The Rev. Margaret L. Weis, First Unitarian Society of Ithaca (Unitarian-Universalist) Rev. Teressa M. Sivers, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
Rev. Janet Shortall, Unitarian Universalist clergy
Rabbi Miriam T. Spitzer, Temple Beth-El
Rev. Christina Culver, Loaves & Fishes of Tompkins County
Rev. Dr. David A. Kaden, Senior Minister, First Congregational Church of Ithaca
Rev. Debbie Bennett Reynolds, Pastor, First Baptist Church in Ithaca
Rev. Darcey Laine, Unitarian Universalist clergy
Rabbi Suzanne Brody, Director of Education and Youth Programming, Temple Beth-El Rev. Megan L. Castellan, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Ithaca
Rabbi Tziona Szajman
Ithaca Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Mahmud Burton, President, Al-Huda Islamic Center
Cantor Abbe Lyons, Jewish chaplain, Hillel at Ithaca College
Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director, Hillel at Ithaca College
Rev. Cynthia Weaver, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Taryn Mattice, Chaplain, The Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University Rev. Anthony R. Lister, retired United Church of Christ pastor
Rev. Dr. Barb E Blom, Interfaith Center for Healing and Action
Naomi Wilensky, Religious Education Director, Congregation Tikkun v’Or
Rev. Kirianne E. Weaver, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rabbi Brian Walt, Tikkun v’Or, Ithaca Reform Temple