NEW YORK — Over 600 Jewish organizations, representing the majority of American Jews, signed a letter in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that was published in a full-page New York Times ad on Friday.
“We support the Black-led movement in this country that is calling for accountability and transparency from the government and law enforcement. We know that freedom and safety for any of us depends on the freedom and safety of all of us,” reads the letter, which was published on page A17 of the print edition of The New York Times.
“As Jews, we know how dangerous this is: when politicians target Jewish people and blame us for problems, it leads directly to violence against us. When Black movements are undermined, it leads to more violence against Black people, including Black Jews,” the letter says.
The 627 groups that signed the letter included the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist denominational movements, which make up 35 percent, 18% and 1% of American Jewry, respectively, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study.
The list also includes several Orthodox groups such as the Uri L’Tzedek social justice organization and Yaffed, an advocacy group that seeks to improve secular education in Hasidic schools.
The Black Lives Matter movement is the current day Civil Rights movement in this country, and it is our best chance at equity and justice. By supporting this movement, we can build a country that fulfills the promise of freedom, unity, and safety for all of us, no exceptions.
The letter’s signatories include ardently Zionist, mainstream organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federations of North America local chapters, along with several groups that support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, including Jewish Voice for Peace and Anti-Zionist Shabbat.
A group of Jewish activists penned the letter and first posted it on the publishing platform Medium on June 25, against the backdrop of nationwide protests that erupted following the police killing of George Floyd in late May.
It garnered the backing of over 400 organizations within its first 48 hours, according to Audrey Sasson, the executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
“We were starting to see the far-right concoct conspiracy theories that Black Lives Matter was being manipulated by Globalists and Marxists in an anti-Semitic attempt to undermine the Black-led movement,” Sasson said. “This brought an opportunity to unequivocally state as a large swath of Jewish community organizations that we stand behind Black Lives Matter and that any attempt to divide that movement will not land.”
A decision was made to re-publish the missive as a New York Times ad on Friday to mark the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 1963 mass-rally for the civil and economic rights of Black Americans.
Organizers were careful to assert that no single organization had been behind the letter and that a diverse group of activists had been involved in writing it up.
“When we put it out, we said there would be no edits,” said Dove Kent, the senior strategy adviser at Bend the Arc: Jewish Action. Her progressive, political action group had been involved in the early logistics of the effort.
“I was shocked that we didn’t get one edit request from an institution. It showed how committed people in this moment are to supporting Black liberation,” Kent said.
Asked whether organizers faced any hurdles getting traditionally Zionist organizations to back a movement with some anti-Israel leanings in its past, Kent simply responded, “no.”
“What the response to this letter has shown is that people are not succumbing to the politics of division… We’re seeing the need to join together, even when we’re in disagreement on core issues,” she added.
Kent went on to assert that the latest effort by the coalition of Jewish organizations does not stop with the letter, and that many of them have been following it up with actions at the local level in support of police reform, hiring equity and affordable housing.