Local rabbis affirm Binghamton Interfaith Clergy Statement Against Racism

Rabbis Geoffrey Brown. Rachel Esserman and Barbara Goldman-Wartell are among local clergy who signed the “Binghamton Interfaith Clergy Statement Against Racism.” The text of that statement follows.

As leaders of diverse predominantly white faith communities in the Binghamton, New York area, we are angry and saddened by the unspeakable tragedies of the Black deaths we have been witness to in recent weeks and the hideous underbelly of white supremacy that these events and the response to them has revealed. 

We confess that our eyes have not always been open to the plight of those who have been the victims of brutality and violence. As people of privilege we are usually blind to the actions that hurt, brutalize, and kill those without our privileges whose blood today cries from the soil. We confess that at times it takes the deaths of those created in God’s image like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and countless others to awaken in us the need to seek justice and to dismantle systems of oppression. Our hearts are torn for every victim of white supremacy and police brutality. Every time we forget that each person is made in the image of God, we move further away from our own humanity. We value the sanctity of every human life.

Ideas and systems that support white supremacy are a cancer that eats away at our minds, hearts, and souls. Indifference and fear perpetuate systems of inequality that hurt poor and working class white communities along with black, brown and native people.

We acknowledge the need to examine our own reflexive racist impulses, and to work every day on becoming anti-racist in thought, word and deed.

We commit ourselves to being guided by and supporting Black leadership in our community in identifying the problems and solutions needed to bring about justice, and therefore work for peace.

We affirm today that we are our sibling’s keeper. Our traditions proclaim that we cannot stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds (Lev. 19: 16). Today we commit ourselves to the work of healing the wounds of racism and systems of privilege in all of their forms and work toward a day when all of God’s children will be treated with the dignity that is due to those of sacred worth. 

We commit ourselves to the work toward the transformation of ourselves and our faith communities. We will educate our faith communities on the realities of racism and its predominance in our world. We will listen to the protesters and learn from the plight of our siblings, brothers and sisters. We will encounter the realities of our world and work toward its transformation. We will accompany and protect the right of our neighbors to protest and when applicable use our own privilege to protect those who may be in harm’s way.

We acknowledge, uphold, and will actively work to support the goals outlined by the NAACP:

- Binghamton must reinstate its standing Citizen Review Board and invest it with subpoena power.

- Review of Police Departments Use of Force Continuum, ensuring that they have at least 6 levels of steps, with clear rules on escalation.

- Banning of kneeholds and chokeholds as acceptable in Use of Force Continuums

- Review by Black leadership in local communities of the State’s Open Records Act(s) to determine if officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories are shielded from the public.

- Review by Black leadership of the Police Department’s record of disciplining or charging officers charged with misconduct.

Together we take a journey of transformation to ground ourselves in the deep truth that our own liberation and wholeness are woven into the larger struggle for racial justice, and in deep solidarity with black, brown, and native clergy and faith leaders to embody the beloved community.

We pray that the God of justice and compassion will empower all of God’s people to work toward the dismantling of the systems of oppression and privilege. We will work together for the day when all people are treated with the same sacred worth. Finally, we hope for the transformation of systems of oppression and privilege to systems that acknowledge the inherent worth of all individuals and create a better world.
We, the undersigned, affirm this statement: