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Pain, Horror and Fear in Minneapolis

June 2, 2020 | by Rabbi Jacob Rupp

The shock of seeing our quiet city become ground zero for a jarring, horrific abuse of power, launching violent protests across the country.

Minneapolis is usually a very quiet place. Sure, it’s a big city, but in our small neighborhood of St. Louis Park, it feels quaint, small and isolated. So it’s quite a shock when the city becomes ground zero for a jarring and horrifying abuse of power, launching protests across the country and turning major and minor cities alike into tinder boxes of violence.

It was so horrific to watch a person’s life ebb away, powerless, while crowds looked on. It is hard to find the language strong enough to condemn such abuse of power. These individuals must be brought to justice.

One must stand up and demand justice when those who are tasked with protecting us do not. One must also stand up and condemn those who unleash their anger through looting, burning, and creating anarchy.

I received a message that as many as 75,000 people were streaming in from out of state to infiltrate the suburbs outside of Minneapolis to bring ‘justice.’ The Jewish communities here, and in many American cities, find themselves in those crosshairs. After Havdalah Saturday night I was instructed to be on the lookout for cars with no license plates, cruising through our streets, with the intention to commit mayhem and arson. As I tried to keep myself awake in the early morning hours, I was reminded of the sentence in the Torah, “You will live in such fear that the sound of a leaf driven by the wind will send you fleeing.”

Fear is what I felt after watching a man being slowly murdered by a person we are supposed to trust. Fear is what I felt as I watched tens of police cars burned, spray-painted, and destroyed. Fear is what I felt as I watched a police station go up in flames and shuls vandalized.

In a world gone mad, what is there for us to do? Actually, plenty. We must condemn murder when we see it. We can condemn the senseless destruction of property. We can advocate for life, for freedom. We can express our genuine appreciation for those who work tirelessly to protect us and to help us. The police, the fire department, the medical first responders. And we must hold accountable those who are corrupt. We must examine, as a society and as individuals, our attitudes towards people who have a different color of skin. We must confront racism. We must help build our community.

A local doctor, Dr. Vivian Fischer, cited her Jewish values as to why she chose to go deep into the heart of the destruction to render first aide to those who were in need, and to support those who were helping with the clean-up efforts. I was deeply touched by one of our friends, who, as she was being evacuated, was busy posting all the ways people could contribute funds to help support organizations that focused on racial inequality and helping to hear social discord.

Healing a broken world takes work and I won’t pretend to have any grandiose ideas about the sweeping pieces of legislation that will make it all go away. But I do know that the basic, timeless principles from our Torah can repair the world: Respect other people. Advocate for peace. Do kindness for others. Be grateful. Focus on becoming the best person you can be. Start by fixing yourself; the world will follow. A lack of humanity ripped us apart and we can all do our part to try to heal together. As the Mishna in Ethics of the Fathers teaches, “We are not expected to complete the task, nor are we exempt from doing what we can.”

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