Over 50 NYC Rabbis Support Police Reform Legislation

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Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu joins 52 others in backing police-reform bill

Fifty-three rabbis who live and work in New York City signed a letter to the New York City Council calling on them to to immediately hold a hearing and pass the Right to Know Act.

The letter represents a growing movement within the Jewish community, in partnership with communities across the city, to support police reform legislation in New York that was just recently endorsed by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

"As a religious person of privilege I support this bill because holding people with power accountable is as critical for those experiencing injustice, who are driving this legislation, as it is for ensuring the rebuilding of trust needed for police to effectively do their job," said Rabbi Irwin Kula.

While support continues to build amongst Jewish faith leaders for the Council to pass the legislation, two thirds of the City Council’s Jewish Caucus have yet to sign on as bill sponsors to the full Right to Know Act package.

Rabbis who signed the letter are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Unaffiliated. They work in congregations, rabbinic schools, universities, and Jewish institutions based in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

"We are all created in the image of God and should treat each other as if a divine spark is in each one of us. Transparent policing is one of the best ways to value all human life," said another supporter, Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, Director of Rabbis Without Borders for CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

The Right to Know Act is a legislative package consisting of two bills. The first, the “ID Bill”, requires officers to identify themselves  and explain the reason for subjecting someone to law enforcement action, like a stop.

The second, “the Consent to Search Bill”, would help end unconstitutional searches by requiring officers to explain a person’s right to refuse a search when there is no legal justification for it and obtain objective proof of consent if the person voluntarily agreed to the search.

Dr. Rabbi Barat Ellman stated that the culture of transparency created by the Right to Know Act “is of vital and moral importance. As a professor of Bible and theology, I believe that knowledge is not just power but also the foundation of moral conscience.”

The rabbis signed onto the letter as part of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice and in partnership with Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). CPR is campaign of organizations across New York City working to end discriminatory policing in NYC and is led by communities directly targeted by discriminatory policing.

Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin from Israel Center of Conservative Judaism said: "As a rabbi in Queens, a multi-ethnic borough, I think it's unfair that I am at an advantage as a white woman. I honor the moment when Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King walked together arm and arm and refer to it frequently in my rabbinate. Deep partnerships will only make this country a better place to live."

The rabbis’ letter to the City Council can be found here.

The Rabbis signed onto letter:

Rabbi Renni S. Altman, HUC-JIR

Rabbi Guy Austrian, Fort Tryon Jewish Center

Rabbi Sharon Ballan, Temple Beth Sholom, Flushing

Rabbi David Dunn Bauer, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah

Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin, Israel Center of Conservative Judaism

Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, B'nai Jeshurun

Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, The Center for Jewish Living, The David H. Sonabend Center for Israel

Rabbi Dr. Barat Ellman

Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition

Rabbi Brian Fink, Engage Jewish Service Corps, JCC Manhattan

Rabbi Zach Fredman, The New Shul, Manhattan

Rabbi Megan Goldman, Columbia/Barnard Hillel

Rabbi Rachel Grant-Meyer

Rabbi Yael Hammerman, Ansche ChesedRabbi Shai HeldRabbi Jo Hirschmann, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of ReligionRabbi David Ingber, Founder and Spiritual Director, Romemu: Judaism for Body, Mind and SpiritRabbi Jill Jacobs, T'ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human RightsRabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, T'ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human RightsRabbi Mark Kaiserman, The Reform Temple of Forest HillsRabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, Ansche ChesedRabbi Marc Katz, Associate Rabbi, Congregation Beith ElohimRabbi Avi KilipRabbi Daniel Kirzane, Associate Rabbi Beth Havorim Shir ShalomRabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Congregation Beit Simchat TorahRabbi Manes Kogan, Hillcrest Jewish CenterRabbi Chava Koster,B’nai Israel,The Village TempleRabbi Irwin KulaRabbi Judith LewisRabbi Dov Linzer, YCT Rabbinical SchoolRabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot ChayeinuRabbi Marc Margolius, West End SynagogueRabbi Jeffrey MarkerRabbi J. Rolando Matalon, B'nai JeshurunRabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson, T'ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human RightsRabbi Jessica MinnenRabbi Michael PaleyRabbi Dina Rosenberg, Bay Ridge Jewish CenterRabbi David Rosenn, New Israel FundRabbi Jennie Rosenn, HIASRabbi Jason Rubenstein, Dean of Students, Yeshivat HadarRabbi Stephanie Ruskay, AVODAH and JOINRabbi Regina Sandler-PhillipRabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn, Congregation TehillahRabbi Andy ShugermanRabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu,  Director of Rabbis Without Borders for CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and LeadershipRabbi Felicia Sol, B'nai JeshurunRabbi Bonnie SteinbergRabbi Burton L. Visotzky, JTSRabbi Seth Wax, Congregation Mount Sinai, BrooklynRabbi Josh WeinbergRabbi Rachel Weiss, Congregation Beit Simchat TorahRabbi Nancy Wiener, Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion The institutions listed for identification purposes only.

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