IF we are alive to them, there are always surprising resonances between the communal Jewish calendar we are living and the global one. Passover seder night this year coincided with the peak of COV-ID cases in the UK. And now this past week, as we Jews celebrated Shavuot, receiving the Torah in fire on Mount Sinai and entering anew into a commitment to ethical living, the world, too, was set afire by a renewed reminder of systemic racial injustice: harrowing video of a white US police officer with his knee on the neck of an African-American man, George Floyd, killing him.

Uprisings across the United States demanding justice have followed.  As the Black US writer James Baldwin wrote, quoting the words of an African-American spiritual, “God gave Noah the rainbow sign / No more water, the fire next time.” Floyd’s death was only the most recent police killing of a Black person in the US, and combined with the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on the African-American community (as it has had a disproportionate effect on BAME people here in the UK), this anger, sorrow and frustration has spurred mass organising in the streets.

As we watch from afar as British Jews, Nim Ralph, the Black British anti-oppression activist reminds us, especially those of us including myself who are white, that we have our own “introspection & learning to do,” listing the names of Black Britons who have been killed by systemic racism recently in the UK: “Belly Mujinga, Naomi Hersi, Sarah Reed, Sheku Bayoh, Mark Duggan, Christopher Alder, Cynthia Jarrett, Sean Rigg, Joy Gardner.” US social worker Tanner adds, “As the Jewish community reaches in and says how do we support their cause and how do we support the black community, it’s really important that people reach in to black Jews and other Jews of color and realize that we’re here. And we need our community.” We must remember that some of us might be especially hurting right now.

As Kehillah North London, we stand in solidarity with the Black community in their demand for justice — and that means re-committing on this Shavuot week, appropriately, to more learning, further commitment to listening deeply to what the moral demands are of us in this moment, and to action.


A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked

for some time for the Parks and Rec.

Horticultural Department, which means,

perhaps, that with his very large hands,

perhaps, in all likelihood,

he put gently into the earth

some plants which, most likely,

some of them, in all likelihood,

continue to grow, continue

to do what such plants do, like house

and feed small and necessary creatures,

like being pleasant to touch and smell

like converting sunlight

into food, like making it easier

for us to breathe.