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Saluting the Police & the Path to Racial Harmony

Saluting the Police & the Path to Racial Harmony

July 22, 2016

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Saluting the Police & the Path to Racial Harmony

"Pray for the wellbeing of the authorities. For without them, one man will swallow up another alive." - The Talmud

What does Judaism say about our attitude towards police and law enforcement? The Talmud says we must stand with them, as they represent the stability of the land in which we live.

If this was true even under hostile, unfair regimes (the norm for almost all of history), how much more so in this blessed republic, often referred to by the Rebbe as "a regime of kindness".

When a police officer is shot, we all ought to hurt. For he or she isn't taking the bullet just for themselves, but rather for all of us, the people they work to protect.

Surely police can and do make mistakes in their judgment, often a life and death call which needs to be made in a split second. Plus, there is always the occasional rotten apple... Any system involving people will include flawed people. This is a very serious issue that must be dealt with in the most serious manner.

But as a rule, we pray and stand firm with our law enforcement as a moral and religious responsibility. And when police are shot, we all hurt!

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In an encounter with Mayor David Dinkins, the Rebbe expressed his hopeful dream that "in the near future, the 'melting pot' will be so active that it will not be necessary to underline every time," when speaking of others, "'They are Black', 'They are White', 'They are Hispanic', because they are no different. All of them are created by the same God and created for the same purpose: to add to all good things around them."

After the 1991 riots, the Rebbe expressed his hope to Mayor Dinkins that the mayor would be able to bring peace to the city.

The mayor added, "to both sides," which the Rebbe corrected, explaining, "We are not two sides; we are one side. We are one people living in one city under one administration and under one God. May God protect the police and all the people of the city."

In the face of the tragic murder of one of his students and followers, during those riots the Rebbe's response was not finger-pointing and culture-blaming; his response was a call to unite, to highlight our similarities over our differences and to draw upon our shared mission in bringing otherwise disparate communities together.

The Rebbe taught us Judaism's approach to racial harmony: Don't continue to highlight the differences between people. In spite of the best intentions, this only serves to further divide people. Instead, view all people as one, all part of the family of humanity, all created in G‑d's image for the purpose of making this world a Home for the Divine by living lives of morality and goodness.

Rather than being a struggle of black against white, or inner cities against police officers, we ought to reframe it to a battle of good people of all races - and professions - against the bad guys, no matter what color, creed, religion, or uniform.

The motto "In God we trust" is not a replacement of "E Pluribus Unum." It is its justification and rationale. "From many" can come "one" when society will appreciate that we are all, in truth, "one nation under one God."

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Let's salute and pray for the safety and protection of our men and women in blue. Locally, we salute our amazing local Port Washington Police Department, Chief James Salerno and the entire department.

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