On Monday, June 23, 2014, a group of over 50 Jewish social justice leaders, including Rabbis and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, released a letter (accessible at JewsForJackson.org) in support of Black-led efforts to create a democratic cooperative economy in the South. These leaders call upon the broader Jewish community to act in its legacy to support Blacks in the South today.
The letter launches the “Jews Standing with the South” campaign, 50 years after Mississippi Freedom Summer. The goal is to raise funds for Cooperation Jackson and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, two organizations modeling the creation of financial mechanisms that do not profit off of inflicting harm upon oppressed communities, but instead explicitly serve their interests.
Explaining their commitment to action, the Jewish leaders wrote, “We hear Torah’s charge, ‘Justice, justice, you shall pursue’ (Deuteronomy 16:20) as a call for collective liberation. We believe that we are interdependent: our lives and dignity are inextricably woven together. Fear, based in histories of oppression, displacement, exclusion, containment, pogroms, and genocide has pushed many in our community to forsake the values of struggle and dissent that were once central to our people. While many of our ancestors have sought out assimilation in hope of ensuring safety, we are firmly committed to the belief that true security is ultimately an illusion when injustice persists.”
Thousands of Blacks Southerners made up the backbone of Freedom Summer, and hundreds of Jewish volunteers from across the country traveled to Mississippi to work under veteran Black leadership and hold voter registration drives, as well as to establish Freedom Schools and community centers across the state. On June 21, 1964, a Black Mississippian, James Chaney, and two Jewish activists, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, were sent to investigate the burning of a Black church targeted as a place for civil rights organizing. The three young Freedom Summer activists were brutally murdered later that night.
Jewish social justice leaders are calling upon their community to act in the legacy of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner, and everyone else who chose to pursue justice in the face of fear during Mississippi Freedom Summer. They are working to rejuvenate meaningful solidarity between communities of Blacks and Jews who have allied historically to advance various social struggles.
Jews for Jackson: Answer the Call!
Please join us in standing with the South by signing our letter and making a contribution that will be split between Cooperation Jackson and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project.