NY synagogue cries out 'Black lives matter' in Rosh Hashanah sermon

Rabbi Hirsch stated that "liberal Jews can... join the struggle for racial justice – we must join that struggle – while distancing from those who peddle hatred of Jews."

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish in NY 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish in NY 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, senior rabbi of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York, decided to open the Jewish New Year with a special message of "optimism and moral clarity," as the synagogue called it, by stating that "Black lives matter" - and perpetuating the deep underlying connection that exists between the Jewish and African-American communities in the US.
"Judaism commands us to take sides," Hirsch claimed.
The Rosh Hashanah sermon was given to worshipers in the synagogue’s sanctuary and those watching online, and expressed the importance, according to Hirsch, of remembering the painful Jewish history and the lessons it brings with it. 
“Racism subverts every principle of religious thought,” said Hirsch. “Dehumanization is the ultimate logic of racism. Jews know this. The road to Auschwitz was paved with the sediment of supremacy, centuries of scorn spread on the highways, byways and railways of Europe.
“The custom of venerating leaders of the Confederacy is maddening. I will never forget my feelings of revulsion in Kiev seeing a statue of Bohdan Khmelnitsky, the Cossack leader who massacred tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews,” Hirsch said. “Custom must be transformed and Judaism commands us to take sides. For these reasons, I state proudly and without reservation, that Black lives matter.”
Addressing pushback that the Movement for Black Lives receives from right-wing politics, Hirsch clarified: “When we say Black lives matter, we do not mean the condescending accusation that white lives, Native American lives, Jewish lives [and] Asian lives do not matter, or matter less. We do not mean that we support the small minority of activists who perpetrate violence. To the contrary, we mean that we are on the side of those who seek – and are prepared to work for – a more perfect union.”


Regarding antisemitism and anti-Zionism among some progressive activists, he said: “When we say Black lives matter, we do not mean that we supported the noxious anti-Israel position of the Movement for Black Lives platform published four years ago, characterizing Israel as genocidal. Liberal Jews can do both: we can join the struggle for racial justice – we must join that struggle – while distancing from those who peddle hatred of Jews."
Addressing the synagogue's decision to cancel its participation in the Women's March, Hirsch continued to express the necessity of carefully choosing one's battles, while pointing to the strong support the synagogue has for Israel. 
“To the best of my knowledge, ours was the only synagogue in our area to announce publicly that we were discontinuing our participation in the Women’s March once its leaders began exploiting their platform to bash Israel and voice support for Louis Farrakhan," he said.
"It was controversial at the time, but subsequent events vindicated us. Since we seem to be more timid in the face of left-wing antisemitism, it is important for the Jewish world and our allies in the civil rights and social justice movements to understand, clearly, what liberal American Jews believe: We do not stand with those who seek to cancel Israel, who skirt with hate. It is unbecoming, unproductive and unjust," Hirsch said.