The Wisconsin Council of Rabbis issued the following statement today in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake and the aftermath.
Leviticus, chapter 19:16-18, states: “You shall not stand by idly as your neighbor bleeds.” In that spirit, and in recognition that human life is of infinite worth, we stand with the family of Jacob Blake and the Black community of Wisconsin, in the wake of Mr. Blake’s shooting by the Kenosha Police. The sickening and tragic nature of the incident was underscored by the fact his children witnessed their father being shot seven times in the back. We fully support our Black neighbors whose anger, outrage and frustration are compounded by so many similarly questionable past incidents of law enforcement’s use of lethal force.
Moreover, we assert unequivocally Black Lives Matter because it is Black young men and women whose lives are at risk whenever they encounter the police. It is Black lives that are cut short by law enforcement’s questionable use of lethal force. And when property is destroyed in the violence following a police shooting, it is Black lives that sadly, by comparison, seem to matter less.
A reminder of why Black lives must matter more came several nights later. During a largely peaceful march, a seventeen-year old white man from Illinois with an AR-15 rifle shot several people, killing two. When the self-identified “militia” member then walked towards the police with his hands raised and the rifle at his side, the police drove slowly past him to attend to the wounded. Seemingly, a white man with an AR-15 at the scene of a shooting wasn’t perceived as a threat. Indeed, some time before, already after a curfew was in force, police were videotaped giving the armed Illinois youth and other armed militia members bottles of water and thanking them for their help before driving away. “We appreciate you guys,” the officer said. “We really do.”
One can only imagine what would have happened had that heavily armed seventeen-year old Illinois resident had been black.
We pray for Mr. Blake’s complete recovery, for his family and children and the community of Kenosha. We commit to redouble our efforts to realize a world where racism is a thing of the past, where all of God’s children are treated equally, a world in which we can fulfill the Prophet Micah’s vision, “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”