By Ariel Levin, Nora Claire Miller, Ollie Bricke, Michah Marks and Gail Brashers-Krug, Iowa City
The phrase “two Jews, three opinions” is a well-known saying — anyone with experience in Jewish spaces is familiar with the lively and sometimes heated debate that can spring up on any topic, no matter how trivial.
And yet, on some subjects, the matter is explicitly clear — such as that of pikuach nefesh, or the religious obligation to save a life that supersedes all others. Black Lives Matter organizers across the country, including the Iowa Freedom Riders, have taken up the mandate of pikuach nefesh to dismantle the institution of police that threatens and takes Black lives daily, and called on Iowa City’s elected officials to follow suit.
Yet over the past several months, we have watched you repeatedly flout that principle. Time and time again, you have chosen not human life, but the appearance of storefront windows, the disruptiveness of protesters exposing police brutality (and forcing people to pay attention), and the light they have shown on the hypocrisy of Iowa City’s leadership as your top concerns.
As members of the Iowa City and Agudas Achim Jewish communities, we call on you — as Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe approach — to practice teshuvah and do better. You cannot dance with one tukhes at two weddings, and you cannot claim to value Black lives and organizing — including those of Black Jews — while undermining their leadership and impeding their demands. It’s long past time for you to make your priority clear, to yourself and to all of us – protecting life, or protecting the status quo.
Editor’s note: This letter to the editor was originally published under a different title, one that was submitted by its writers. That title may have created an incorrect impression regarding the letter and its contents, and has subsequently been changed. Little Village regrets any false impression it may have conveyed with the earlier title.