In 2020, Rabbi Seth Adelson issued the following statement in response to the murder of George Floyd and the outcry that emerged:
Beth Shalom Statement on Racial Inequality
Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh. All Jews are guarantors for one another. This maxim from the Talmud (Sanhedrin 27b) suggests that we are all responsible for each other, for preventing our neighbor from falling. Although the rabbi who wrote this was only thinking about fellow Jews, we have an obligation in today’s interdependent society to consider all of our neighbors, not just the Jewish ones.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis nearly two weeks ago, and similar deaths at the hands of law enforcement, reminds us that we are all in this together. People from across the religious, racial, and ethnic spectrum came out to memorialize those whom our community lost on October 27th; so too should we be there for them at this time.
Congregation Beth Shalom stands in support of all those who peacefully assemble to protest the killing of George Floyd, and we repudiate those who cynically co-opt the current context to steal and vandalize.
And so too regarding the recent murders of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in recent weeks, and Antwon Rose Jr. here in Pittsburgh in 2018. We acknowledge that the injustices that African Americans face on a daily basis are unacceptable, and that the time to right historical wrongs has long since passed. We also acknowledge that we must take on our part of the work to make our communities more equitable and just. This task is a large one, but lo alekha hammelakhah ligmor, velo atah ben horin lehibbatel mimmena (Pirkei Avot 2:21). We may not be able to finish it, but we know that we must not shy away from it.
Now is the time for us to remember the essential message of love from the Torah, which none other than Rabbi Akiva vaunts as perhaps its greatest commandment: Ve-ahavta lere’akha kamokha (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:18). Love your neighbor as yourself. It is only through truly living these words that we may fashion a society in which all can live with dignity and freedom.