NJJN Senior Writer Johanna Ginsberg’s articles and features are always informative, well-written, and enlightening. Her opinion piece, “Our silence equals consent” (June 4), was that and much more; it’s crucial to an understanding of the burning issue of racism in America today. That she moved out of her “objective” role as journalist and was willing to share her personal experiences and background is a gift to readers of NJJN.
Ginsberg gives sad testimony to examples of racism, brutality, and vindictiveness that she witnessed from the inside as a criminal defense lawyer for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. What she attests to is not only the racist, unjust, and injudicious use of force by members of a police department, but its reflection of the attitude of the government officials whose role it is to supervise and pay these “officers of the law.”
Were her observations only about her experiences nearly 30 years ago, it would be worth reading as background to understanding current issues being discussed widely following the tragic murder of George Floyd, plus Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and so many others. The fact that her experiences reflect all too closely the news of the day uncovers the fact that the misdeeds of today are deeply seated and multi-generational in origin.
Importantly for us as Jewish readers of NJJN, Ginsberg reminds us implicitly that there’s no room for rationalizations and expressions of knee-jerk abhorrence of anti-Semitism, misplaced emphasis on the reprehensible acts of a small number of vandals and their disregard for property, and unrelated matters concerning Israel’s deeds and misdeeds, when the suffering of our fellow African Americans is highlighted.
As American Jews we must stand up against racism in our society as a whole and injustice, brutality, and insensitivity among a putrid minority of our “officers of the law.” We must call our elected officials to account for their leadership in this regard. Let us remember the biblical injunctions to act with mercy, justice, and “choose life.”
Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation B’nai Israel