Jewish Federation Leaders Speak Out on Police Violence, Protests

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In a letter released Monday morning, the leaders of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation spoke out on the deaths of George Floyd and Niles resident Matthew Burroughs at the hands of the police, as well as the systemic racism that led to their deaths.

In the letter, federation President Rick Marlin and Vice President  Andrew Lipkin said the protest held by Sojourn to the Past Sunday was “poignant, vital and and appropriate forum for the understandable expression of outrage.” 

“We were proud to participate and salute the young organizers, despite those individuals, many of whom came from outside our community, who attempted through violent and destructive acts to defy Congressman John Lewis’s charge,” they wrote. “We pray that, through justice, peaceful solutions are found.”

The full letter can be read below:

We are heartbroken and outraged at the senseless and tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. His death is yet another in a disturbingly long list of similar racist incidents and inexcusable injustices that have been perpetrated against African-Americans in this country, including against Mahoning Valley resident Matthew Burroughs.

Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights icon whose call for peaceful protests recognized that justice has been denied for far too long, has implored all people of good will to “…Organize. Demonstrate. Sit in. Stand up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive.” Yesterday we attended the March for Justice in downtown Youngstown, organized by student-activist Sonya Lenoir and Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past. This peaceful event was poignant, vital, and an appropriate forum for the understandable expression of outrage. We were proud to participate and salute the young organizers, despite those individuals, many of whom came from outside our community, who attempted through violent and destructive acts to defy Congressman Lewis’s charge. We pray that, through justice, peaceful solutions are found.

And while we, as Jews, know personally and painfully the dangers of unchecked hatred, now is the time to hear the cries of all persons of color who have suffered as a result of discrimination and bigotry and proclaim that all are entitled to justice and freedom from hate. As victims of insidious systemic and institutionalized racism, they deserve no less.  

Our tradition teaches us that all humans are created in the image of G-d, to not stand idly by, and to stand up for the rights of all people. We are committed to work together with our partners in the African-American and all communities to stamp out racism and pursue justice.  Systemic change is needed now.

Pictured: Hundreds gathered in downtown Youngstown Sunday for a protest led by Sonya Lenoir and Sojourn of the Past.

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