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WHIM (What Inspires Me) is a post by Cathy Gardner, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton. Here, Cathy will discuss current events, important news stories and all things related to Jewish Federations and the Dayton Jewish community.

Over the past week, I have seen multiple news reports about the murder of George Floyd, an African American man who lost his life at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Three other officers stood by in silence as bystanders recorded Mr. Floyd’s final moments. In the video, you can hear the bystanders beg those officers to stop the other officer’s heinous actions, to no avail.

As a Jewish woman, I can relate to the overall feeling of being perceived as different and the possibility of being hated merely for who I am. I often times find myself feeling on guard, aware that someone may say something antisemitic or express hate toward our people. It can be a difficult thing to explain to someone who isn’t Jewish or who has never experienced that type of prejudice.

However, I in no way can even begin to understand what it is like to be an African American man or woman in today’s society. Unless I tell someone I am Jewish, they do not know. Our friends in the African American community cannot hide their race. In order for me to fully participate in the necessary changes to combat systemic and institutional racism, I have a lot of understanding to achieve.

While I learned quite a bit as a child in the 1960’s, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I need to be reeducated. For me, part of that reeducation came about when I read the book Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. According to the book, “one ’aha!’ moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan.” You can read more about the book by clicking here.

Once I read this book, I was quickly reminded that the time for change is long past due. The Federation, along with the YWCA and NCCJ, have been working over the past year to create a Coalition Against Hate. Mr. Floyd’s death has reminded us that this needs to be expedited.

In addition to the Coalition Against Hate, our JCRC Director Marcy L. Paul, Ph.D. is working to help develop opportunities for our community to join others in the fight against hate. One of those opportunities will take place from June 19th through July 9th, in which we have joined with the YWCA as an ambassador for their Summer 21 Day Challenge. For further information about the JCRC’s full statement regarding the death of Mr. Floyd and the YWCA’s 21 Day Challenge, please click here.

As our JCRC has become a robust component of the work we do, we have adopted the motto “Educate – Advocate – Act.” The recent death of Mr. Floyd has reminded me that we need this now more than ever. We stand with the African American community and support their fight for justice and equity.

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