Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Racism in Good Old Boy Land: This is Not the Pursuit of Justice

The Torah tells us "Justice, justice must you pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20).  From this statement, our Sages infer that we are intended not merely to observe this sacred obligation when it's convenient, or when the opportunity presents itself.  We are to pursue justice without being asked, and with great enthusiasm.  It's terribly sad that in  2012, those sworn to uphold the law cannot seem to find the same level of fervor.

I am writing, of course, about the situation in Sanford, Florida, and the abhorrence that I feel while observing the apparent cover up of the Sanford Police Department in their handling of the Trayvon Martin case.  Insufficient investigation.  Disregarded witnesses and evidence.  Release of information obviously intended to discredit the dead young man.  Is this any way to run a police department?

I did not know whether I should have expected a "Law and Order" kind of process.  But that would have been refreshing.  Lenny Briscoe - a Jewish character played by a Jewish actor Jerry Orbach, of blessed memory - we miss you.

We are approaching the holiday of Passover, and we are reminded of the lot of the slave.  We know what intimidation and persecution are about.  We understand servitude to masters who profess different philosophies and beliefs.  And because we understand these things, we must empathize with those in our day who are persecuted and harassed, and seek to alleviate their sufferings.  I hope that the tragic death of Trayvon Martin will cuff us on the side of the head, and make us - as a society - realize that there still is a lot of work to be done to eliminate prejudice, racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.

As we sit around our Seder tables this year, wonder with your friends and relatives about ways to reduce prejudice and hatred; make a commitment to join one more discussion at work or at Temple on ways to build bridges with others; vow to not remain silent when one of your colleagues or friends makes a racist joke; be there for those who are persecuted and oppressed.

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