This morning I had the honor of speaking on behalf of Bend the Arc at the Justice For All March in Washington, D.C., protesting police violence against black communities.
In support of being an inclusive Jewish organization that respects the diversity of our community, we don't usually participate in public programs on Shabbat. However, at this critical moment for our nation I decided that it was imperative to pray with my feet and support the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice today; to make sure that the voice of the American Jewish community was present and represented.
I was humbled to stand with a crowd of thousands, including some of the courageous young people of color who have been leading the protests in Ferguson, in affirming that Black Lives Matter — even as my heart continues to break that this affirmation is necessary in 2014.
Below is the text and video of my remarks. Please feel free to share. There is more to come as we continue our work to support this emerging movement for racial and economic justice.
CEO, Bend the Arc
We Stand With You — Justice for All March, Washington, D.C.
Text of Stosh's Remarks
My name is Stosh Cotler, I am the CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and I thank you for inviting us to join you today.
I'm here to represent the American Jewish community — itself a diverse community including many Jews of color — and I am here to affirm three words: Black Lives Matter.
The central prayer of the Jewish people begins with the Hebrew word sh'ma. It means listen. I want to tell you that American Jews are listening.
We have heard the cries from the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin.
We have heard the last words spoken by Eric Garner.
We have heard the chants in the streets and the chants in the hearts of our sisters and brothers who are crying out with the most essential demand a human being can make: to count. To matter.
Black. Lives. Matter.
And it is not enough for us to listen.
American Jews have stood before with the black community in the Civil Rights Era. Now it is time for us to stand again, to march again with you. This present moment demands our full and complete participation.
My heart is broken that in the year 2014 it is still urgent, necessary, and even radical to affirm that Black Lives Matter.
Yet even while my heart breaks open I am deeply inspired by the courageous young people of color who have sustained protests for 126 days in Ferguson and beyond.
Many of you are here and you make us all proud.
You are advocating, praying, and putting your bodies on the line to demand an end to the murder of black people and an end to the destruction of black communities across the United States.
And American Jews stand with you.
You have already indicted America. You have forced us all to recognize the painful legacy of slavery, the daily injustices experienced by communities of color, and the devastating consequences of the New Jim Crow.
We stand with you.
And, you have provided a clear and powerful path forward. From police accountability to transforming the overarching conditions that shape the daily lives of black communities — from housing to education to jobs with livable wages…
We stand with you.
Piecemeal solutions are not enough — a comprehensive plan with the will and commitment to carry it out is necessary to end systemic racism.
My friends: young leaders have always been at the forefront, pushing us to confront injustice head-on. Our task in this formidable moment is to join with them as they lead us in the march forward.
American Jews, it is time to listen to these brave young leaders. Listen to your heart. Listen to your soul.
As Jews, we believe that our collective fates are inextricably linked. Now is the time to fulfill the prophetic obligation to "pray with our feet." Now is the time to join together and bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.
Only when every black life matters in America, will every life in America matter.
We cannot rest until we have succeeded.