On policing and recent news

Dear CBI community,

The last year has been challenging in many ways. The global pandemic, of course, has impacted all of us in ways too numerous to list. We have had difficult conversations across our nation about the racism in America’s history, rooted in the inhumane practice of human chattel slavery long ago. And, relatedly, communal conversations about racism and policing in our nation. 

Against that backdrop, there have been conversations about policing closer to home. First there was the news of a poster of Hitler in the Williamstown Police Department. Then came news about racial epithets used by members of the WPD. And most recently, we heard the news that members of the WPD illegally searched the records of people who had been critical of the local police

Each of these evokes emotional and spiritual responses in us, and some of those responses are rooted in the trauma experienced by previous generations of Jews in other places and times. (Yes, epigenetic / inherited trauma is real — here’s a BBC article about that.)

As this latest news lands, many of us are feeling betrayed by the people we thought we could rely on to protect us and keep us safe. Please know that I am here to listen if you need to talk. Whatever you are feeling, I honor it, and you. Drop in to my Zoom office hours, or make an appointment to meet at another time: I want to be here for you in whatever ways you need.

At the start of the new Board term, the CBI Board unanimously voted to affirm the Not In Our County pledge. That pledge states that we commit to working together with our neighbors for a safer and more integrated community, and we promise that we will not be silent in the face of intolerance or hate in any form. 

In light of everything that’s unfolding around us, the CBI Board and I reaffirm our commitment to that pledge, and to ensuring that all of us are (and feel) safe here in Northern Berkshire county — including people of color, and Jewish people, and all who are working toward justice. 

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

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