Rabbi Dena Feingold, of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, says she’s been using a “Black Lives Matter Yahrzeit List” since the death of George Floyd.
The list came from a friend she met during a social justice trip to the U.S.-Mexican border. Every Shabbat, as the anniversaries of the deaths come up – about 50 or 60 of them in all – she adds the name or names to the yartzeit list for that service. Along with the names of those remembered by congregants, the names of those lost to racial injustice or police brutality are read, she said.
Now, as parts of Kenosha have been ruined by arson and violence, in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, the rabbi sees the pain behind the chaos.
Feingold said that “people have no other outlet but to cry out on the street for justice.”
She said she’ll not excuse the destruction, but she understands the frustration that leads to it.
The two people shot on Aug. 25 were about a block from the synagogue, she said.
“We decry the senseless loss of life and pray for the victims and their families,” Feingold said.
“I’m a lot more concerned about the loss of life that the Black community experiences on a regular basis because of systemic racism, because of the violence directed at them, than I am about whatever damage or costs are incurred for us because of it,” she also said.
Feingold doesn’t like to use the word “riot” to describe what’s happened. “I think that’s a loaded term,” she said. She worries the destruction will be conflated with “peaceful people on the street trying to make a point about what’s going on in the world.”
The Kenosha synagogue is not in use during the pandemic and a retiree – and former caretaker – who stays there has moved out for safety. The Torahs, too, have been moved.
“All around us, damage has happened,” Feingold said on Aug 25. “Fires have been started. Windows have been broken. Things have been written on walls. We’ve been spared so far, except for our power has been out.”
Feingold said the synagogue has a social justice committee that created a racial justice subcommittee over the summer.
“We decided we wanted to do some serious education around the issue and some discussion,” she said. “We wanted to educate ourselves.”
She’s active with Congregations to Serve Humanity, an interfaith alliance in the Kenosha area.
“From the interfaith community, there are many civil rights organizations in town that are very active in social justice,” she said. “Kenosha is a community that is very engaged in justice issues.”