Jewish Groups Advocate for Discussion, Not Protest in Ferguson

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A protester waves a flag during a demonstrate at the police station in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 26, 2014.Credit: AFP

Jewish groups called for civil and serious discussion about race, democracy and justice in the wake of the grand jury’s decision in fatal shooting of an unarmed African American teen in Ferguson, MO.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs in a statement issued on Wednesday affirmed its support for peaceful demonstration and called for "locally led serious, civil and hard conversations on race, opportunity, and representative democracy in America today."

"When we face great injustices in our society, they must be confronted. We must turn our attention now towards bettering our society, towards working for social justice in eradicating poverty and economic inequality, mending race relations, working towards a fair criminal justice system, increasing the public’s faith in our government institutions and eliminating the perceived disconnect between these institutions and the democratic process," said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow in a statement. "Peaceful demonstration, democratic engagement and the rule of law are bedrock values of America and must be respected. However, violence is never the answer, and it will not heal the problems we face. In fact, it will exacerbate and add to them."

American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger in a statement called the fatal shooting of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., a "glaring failing" of our society. This failing of our system is not a personal foible or one-time event but is rooted in the history of racism which — despite all the progress we have made as a society — still diminishes our justice system,” she said. "As Jewish advocates for human rights, we must stand for justice at home and around the world. We understand from our historical experience what it means to have our lives treated by government authorities as being less valuable than those of others."

The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement that it respected the Missouri grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Brown and called the tragedy a wake-up call, "reminding us that the problems we face as a nation transcend Ferguson."

"Fifty years after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, our society is still not free from bias, racial prejudice, and discrimination. African-Americans are still the most frequent targets of hate crimes in America, black students are suspended or expelled from our public schools at a much higher rate than white students, and there are many other examples that show the continuing racial divide," Karen Aroesty, ADL St. Louis regional director, and Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, said in the statement.

Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler said her organization was "deeply disappointed" by the grand jury’s decision, but added that: "All Americans have a moral responsibility to honor Michael Brown’s life by helping to dismantle the systemic racial injustices underlying his death."

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