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Center for Loving Kindness – Standing in Solidarity on Juneteenth

Posted by Rabbi Ron Symons on June 15, 2022

As our neighbors celebrate Juneteenth, we stand in solidarity as we work to redefine “neighbor” from a geographic term to a moral concept.  We invite you to virtually attend this event in Atlanta on June 17 and revisit our north star framing of how we work for civil rights for all.

View the virtual event here. 

Throughout the 125 year history of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, we have strived to live our values through our daily actions.  We aspire to fulfill our mission by nurturing people and connecting communities, each day, through every age, inspired by Jewish values for every person regardless of race, skin tone, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, economic status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, special needs or citizenship status.

We created the Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement in the summer of 2017 as the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville revealed long-held stark realities of hate throughout our country.  We defined our charge as “Strengthening the fabric of community by amplifying the long-held values of ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ and ‘Do not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds’ while redefining ‘neighbor’ from geographic term to moral concept.”  That mandate has guided our work through very challenging times over these past three years, including our response to the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States in our own city.

We begin the Jewish New Year 5781 at a time when racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism, and historic and current societal inequities are being denounced with hopes for long lasting systemic change.  We make the following statement, committed to learning and action within our JCC community and throughout our Greater Pittsburgh community, and to invite others into the work.

·       TZELEM ELOHIM – Divine Image (uniqueness and dignity)

We believe that Black Lives Matter as an explicit expression of the most fundamental value of human potential.

·       B’RIT – Covenant (belonging and commitment)

We engage in this work as partners with sibling organizations across our region and are guided by organizations led by and serving communities most negatively impacted by racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism and historic and current societal inequities.  We engage in this work knowing that the Jewish community and the JCC are made up of neighbors with multiple identities.

·       K’DUSHAH – Holiness (intentionality and presence)

We are focused and present to address the issues at hand for the work we do within our JCC community and the work we do throughout Greater Pittsburgh.  We examine the role each of us plays as a part of the problem and that each of us can play to be part of the solution.

·       HIT’ORERUT – Awakening (amazement and gratitude)

Our ears, eyes, hearts and minds are open as vehicles of learning from and with those who are most impacted by racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism and historic and current societal inequities.

·       D’RASH – Interpretation (inquiry, dialogue, and transmission)

We are required to be engaged and seek out ways we can impact positive change.

·       MASA – Journey (reflection, return, and renewal)

We approach these issues with humility, aware that individuals and institutions are on journeys of understanding and discovery as are we.  Even as we journey as an institution, we appreciate the journeys of other individuals and institutions no matter how far along they are.  We embrace the long held values of graciousness (chen), loving kindness (chesed) and compassion (rachamim) throughout our journey.

·       TIKKUN OLAM – Repair of the World (responsibility)

We are committed to repair the brokenness within ourselves and the brokenness of our world caused by racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism and historic and current societal inequities.  As we move closer to a more complete beloved community and a more perfect union, we are guided by the Jewish value of justice (tzedek) and reminded to do so by the double imperative, “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

We also invite you to celebrate Shabbat with us and our neighbor Pastor Michael Anthony Day of Legacy International Worship Center of the Northside. Pastor Day has been working with the Center for Loving Kindness for years as we try to make Pittsburgh the most livable city for all of us. His reflections on Juneteenth offer us the opportunity to better understand the importance of the day.

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