Published on December 4, 2014, by in RJV, URJ.

We were pleased to join the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, in a statement in response to the grand jury decision in the case of the death of Eric Garner of New York, NY:

We are anguished by the circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Garner during an encounter with an NYPD officer. Mr. Garner’s death, one in an unmistakable wave of cases across the country involving the questionable use of deadly force by police, is endemic of a much broader and complex crisis of structural racial inequality in our country.While the legal process has played itself out and resulted in the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer, the underlying issues – including police practices, racial divides within the community and economic and social inequality – must be addressed head on. Every American should have faith and trust in law enforcement and our judicial system. Sadly, today this is too often not the case. Mr. Garner’s death illustrates these concerns.

We support Attorney General Eric Holder’s federal investigation. Systemic change is needed, and state, local and municipal governments are key partners, especially working with police and community representatives, to begin the process of healing and strengthening that must be done in the wake of this decision. while our institutions need critical reform, this kind of change must also be addressed through reflection and commitment – from individuals and a diverse array of communities – to transforming what is wrong in America regarding race. The religious community can and must lead this transformation, and we are committed to playing a leadership role to move the conversation, and our country, forward.

The co-chairs of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Barbara Zaron and Joel Elliot, also added: “As moral advocates for social justice in New York, we know that all New Yorkers must come together to ensure equal justice not only as a value, but as a reality. We encourage members of our community to work to build relationships and advocate with us on issues of economic and racial inequality, including reform of our criminal justice system, voting rights and protection of civil rights.

May we across New York City and the nation, in our congregations, communities and homes, come together to overcome these challenges and emerge renewed in our work to achieve our highest ideals.