A Time to Mourn. A Time to Act.

By now, all of us are haunted by the image of a Black man, George Floyd, being asphyxiated by a white Minneapolis police officer — recorded for all to view.

I cannot get this brutal picture out of my mind, and, like you, I am heartbroken and outraged. George Floyd’s murder is the latest in a long list of racist attacks and murders in the United States by the police, other authorities and racist whites against Black people. These crimes against Black Americans are rooted in institutionalized racism, which dates back to slavery and still devalues Black lives today. The huge gap between the unrelenting attacks on Black people and our promise as a nation — that all people are recognized as equal under the law — is simply sickening and unacceptable.

With my husband, Alan, at an interfaith vigil in NYC. Photo provided by Jolie Schwab.

While AJWS fights to protect the human rights of vulnerable people in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, we cannot stay silent in the face of injustice in our own country. Right now, our country needs us all to act. Yes, this is a time to mourn George Floyd, and it is also a time to act.

Together, our diverse AJWS donor community must take up our responsibility to fight against institutionalized racism in the United States, even as we fight together to advance human rights worldwide.

This is a call to action, and we hope you will:

  • Donate to local organizations committed to fighting racism and intolerance;
  • Vote for elected officials who oppose police brutality and respect the rights and dignity of all Americans, especially Black Americans and other people of color;
  • Call on President Trump to stop fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance through racist statements, Tweets and indisputable “dog whistles” to white nationalists and neo-Nazis;
  • Join others in the Jewish community and beyond to speak out against racism and the taking of Black lives. Together with others, we must let the world know that Black lives matter;
  • Ensure that our own Jewish community recognizes and includes Jews of color in every aspect of Jewish communal life; and
  • Support non-violent protestors exercising their full right to free expression to keep the pressure on every sector of society.

Together, both here and around the world, we are committed to the dignity of all people, equality under the law, inclusion of all minorities, and a world in which all people can live to their fullest potential with the full range of human rights in democratic societies. This work must start at home with our commitment to living in a world in which Black lives matter as much as any other person’s life. We want no more George Floyds to mourn. This is why we must act.

If you are reading this, you are a part of AJWS’s American and global community. Thank you for fighting for a world free of racism and hate both here and around the world.

Robert Bank
Robert Bank is President and CEO of American Jewish World Service, the leading Jewish organization working to promote human rights in the developing world. Robert has spent his career championing human rights as an attorney, activist and leader. He joined AJWS as Executive Vice President in 2009 and previously served in New York’s municipal government and in the leadership of GMHC—one of the world’s leading organizations combatting HIV/AIDS. Robert has been honored with GMHC’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Partners in Justice Award from AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.