The senseless death of George Floyd, and the violence that has erupted during these last couple of weeks, have only compounded our ongoing, national tragedy. I am horrified and sickened.

As a Jewish, white male, I could not authentically speak from the perspective of a member of the Black community or from that of a person of color. But as someone who has personally experienced and witnessed anti-Semitism, and one who leads an empathetic, inclusive Jewish Social Service Agency, I do not wish to remain silent. Yet, I am truly at a loss for words to adequately convey my distress and discomfort. Instead, I shall invoke the powerful words (which I read this past week) of the late Elie Wiesel, who stated that:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere… Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe”.

JBBBS prides itself as a warm, accepting, safe haven for everyone in our entire community, a place for mentorship, friendship and loving support. If any of our Littles, their families, Bigs, or our Friends hurt, then so too do we.

And hence, here is the statement of support we published earlier this week:

JBBBS stands with the Black community in mourning the deaths of George Floyd and the innumerable other victims of systemic racism. Our Agency has long believed in the transformational power of one-to-one relationships, and is guided by the principles of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. We pride ourselves in celebrating and supporting people of all religions, races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and varied abilities. Unfortunately, we live in a world that too often does not feel similarly. We commit to taking action to educate and train ourselves – our staff, families and volunteers – so we can be better support people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and children and adults with disabilities.

But words are not enough. So, moving forward, JBBBS shall take the following actions:

1. We will take part in, provide and develop culturally relevant training and educational resources, which we shall share with our Bigs, Littles and their families, Friends, volunteers, staff and fiduciaries. These resources will be informed by local and national experts, and help us discuss systemic racism and how to effectively deal with the trauma our country is currently experiencing.

2. We shall more affirmatively prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion on both the JBBBS staff and fiduciary levels as we hire and partner with individuals and organizations that align with our core values. We anticipate taking part in a national BBBSA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training in the weeks that follow.

3. We will continue to support local and statewide community leaders in their efforts to find solutions to our most challenging social justice issues.

4. We will communicate back to you in the months ahead to demonstrate how we have performed to hold us at JBBBS accountable.

May the upcoming Shabbat, and all our days ahead, be free from violence and bias, and laden with compassion, empathy, tolerance, and most of all, peace.

Jeffrey Savit