A South Carolina Highway Patrol honor guard removes the Confederate battle flag Friday. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Confederate Flag Flies No More Over South Carolina Capitol

On Friday, the Confederate flag was permanently taken down from the South Carolina State House, after weeks of activism and debate. The debate was sparked after the killing of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in mid-June. As Reform Jews who advocate for tolerance and equality for all of God’s people, we are glad to see this symbol of hate removed from state grounds. However, we understand that the flag is only a symbol and racial and economic inequalities persist across the country. We hope that the removal of the flag in South Carolina is only the beginning of our country’s efforts towards full inclusion and healing.

Yesterday, after Governor Haley signed the bill into law, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Last night, the South Carolina House joined the State Senate in voting to remove the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds and today, Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill into law. We are thrilled that the flag will be permanently taken down tomorrow.

We praise the leadership of both Governor Haley and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on this matter and thank the entire legislature for taking this important and historic action. We hope that this show of bipartisanship can encourage Congress and other state legislatures to take down this symbol of hate. As South Carolina, and the entire country, continues to mourn the loss of the nine innocent people who were murdered in Emanuel AME Church, this action symbolizes compassion and unity.

While we commend this symbolic action, we also understand that the flag is only a symbol, and we urge the South Carolina state legislature and federal government to address the systemic racial and economic injustices that persist across our country and oppress our African American brothers and sisters. Our Jewish tradition teaches us that all people are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27).  To this end, we must continue our work to create a world that treats every life with dignity and equal justice.

We are also deeply concerned about the fires that have broken out in churches across the South. See our full statement here and read a reflection from Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina. For more information about the RAC’s work on civil rights and racial justice work, check out our website.  

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About Claire Shimberg

Claire Shimberg is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated in 2014 from the University of Pennsylvania and is originally from Tampa, FL where she is a member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek.

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