Federation Statement on Tony Terrell Robinson, Jr.

The Jewish Federation of Madison extends its sincere condolences to the family of Tony Terrell Robinson, Jr., the 19 year old African-American young man who died in a police-involved shooting last Friday night.

As our community mourns the loss of this young life, we stand in solidarity with the NAACP whose statement you can read here. We appreciate the work of Michael Johnson, CEO of the Dane County Boys & Girls Club, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of Tony Robinson’s family and who is helping our community heal. We value the work of Chief Mike Koval and the Madison Police who serve our city every day. And, our hearts and thoughts are with the citizens of our community as we address the issues of racial disparity that exist here at home.

In December of 2014, the Wisconsin Council of Rabbis issued a statement on racial injustice. We support and endorse these sentiments taken from their statement:

“When our sage Hillel writes, “If not now, when?” he underscores the need for immediacy in addressing pressing issues."

"Although not representative of the vast majority of police officers who risk their lives daily to protect the peace, the disproportionate incidence of police mistreatment of black youth, leading to violence and death, is an offense to our civilized society. Also the occurrence of reprisals on police personnel erodes the ability of law enforcement to perform the proper tasks for our society. All of this bespeaks a certain kind of prejudice and mistrust that still inhabits the hearts and minds of people on both sides of this divide."

"Our tradition teaches that each person has been made in God’s image, and we must, accordingly, treat each of God’s creatures with equality, dignity and worth. The disparate occurrence of violent death of unarmed black youth at the hands of police, from Staten Island to Oakland, and even in our own state of Wisconsin, clearly demonstrates that our nation has great difficulty actualizing this value. Retaliation aimed at police also points to our many shortcomings and doubt. We must not permit such behavior to continue; we must, as a nation, cure the illnesses of mistrust and bigotry that plague us."

"We desperately need to establish, once and for all, a firm and lasting level of trust between the police and citizens of every color. We must find ways to diminish the disparities in employment, incomes, and educational levels that have kept minority Americans from a rightful place at the table. And we in Wisconsin need to repair the severe gaps that rank us last of fifty states for minority children in terms of birth weight, education, childhood welfare, poverty levels, juvenile justice and adult incarceration.”

The Jewish Federation of Madison is passionate about “tikkun olam,” repairing the world, starting here in our own community. There has been a great deal of discussion in Madison about racial disparities in our schools, arrests, convictions, sentencing, prisons, and in our community, and now is the time to address those disparities by working to combat racism and fight for racial equity. The Jewish and African-American communities have a long-standing history of working together effectively to combat racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination and disparate treatment. Whether it is people of color, Jewish individuals, LGBT individuals, or any “other” group, we all need to stand in solidarity and work together.

Dina Weinbach
Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Madison

James Stein
President, Jewish Federation of Madison

Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon
Beth Israel Center

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
Temple Beth El

Rabbi Andrea Steinberger
UW Hillel

Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Congregation Shaarei Shamayim

Rabbi Rebecca Ben-Gideon
Head of School, Madison Jewish Community Day School

Michael Blumenfeld
Executive Director, Wisconsin Jewish Conference

Terrie Goren
Executive Director, Jewish Social Services

Greg Steinberger
Executive Director, UW Hillel


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