As protests heated up again after Louisville courts failed to bring charges against the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a group of Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists are now in their …
As protests heated up again after Louisville courts failed to bring charges against the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a group of Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists are now in their 18th week of holding daily weeknight vigils outside of the Unitarian Society of Germantown in the 6500 block of Lincoln Drive.
On Friday night, members of P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation based in Mt. Airy joined in the demonstrations as the Jewish High Holy Days came to a close with Yom Kippur Sunday. Yom Kippur is a Jewish religious event to commemorate The Day of Atonement carried out by fasting, prayer, and repentance.
Gayle Lacks, who coordinated the P’nai Or participation, talked about the need to do something more than just fast on Yom Kippur.
“I’m paraphrasing here, but one of the things is to read from the Prophet Isaiah who basically said ‘What good is a fast day if you aren’t taking action in the world to heal injustice and unlock the chains?’” said Lacks. “In other words, if you aren’t helping other people in this world then the fast is meaningless.”
Mt. Airy resident Mary Kalyna, who joined USG in 2012, said the daily 5 p.m. rush hour vigils started organically with a friend.
“She said if you ever want to go out with a sign just the two of us, I’m fine with that, and so we did,”Kalyna said. People started honking horns and waving and clearly we were hitting a chord. At the end of the day, we said ‘Let’s go out again tomorrow,’ and that’s how it happened.”
The Friday night vigil drew more than 40 adults from a variety of faith backgrounds and was heavily populated with residents of Northwest Philadelphia.
Chestnut Hill resident Barbara Bloomfield held up a sign with her husband, Mitch. She has been doing so on Mondays as a show of support for the BLM movement.
“It’s wonderful and awful at the same time. It does make me happy to see people wave and smile and the enthusiasm is contagious and that’s what I find very uplifting,” Bloomfield said. “But that we have to do this is awful.”
Rev. Kent Matthies, who has been at USG for 19 years, said the reaction to their role in hosting the protests has been mostly positive.
“A lot of neighbors come by and thank us and participate and we find that very meaningful,” he said. “”So we have a new group of people from the synagogue with us tonight and every day we see people of all ages and backgrounds join us. Some folks who engage in a derogatory manner will find we must walk away from. We will have a conversation, but we will not match violence with violence.”
Latifah Griffin, the new interim minister at USG was proudly holding her Black Lives Matter sign up while motorists hit their horns in support.
“This is validation and an acknowledgement that injustice should not be tolerated. When I hear the honking, I hear allies. We are here taking action and hoping other folks join us,” said Griffin, who is African American.
P’nai Orr Rabbi Malka Binah Klein noted that their services are held two blocks away within the Summit Presbyterian Church on Greene Street.
“This is our first time, but we will be out again because we need to awaken our consciousness to injustices in our city and country,” Klein said.
East Mt. Airy resident David Jones, who is Black, said he is periodically stopped by police for no good reason.
“It makes me feel good that others are standing with me,””he said. I lost my brother in California to police brutality and I don’t want my mother to lose her only surviving son to a violent arrest.
Democratic State Representative Christopher Rabb has been at previous protests and tweeted about the demonstrations.
“It shows that the Black Lives Matter movement is not a fad and it’s something that is being consistently confirmed by white people,” Rabb said in a phone interview. “Silence is complicity and rallies are important symbols and it’s even more important to address issues in our lives large and small by having these conversations and putting energy toward bringing down the barriers.
Weather permitting, the one-hour vigils start at 5 pm. USG has extra signs for anyone in need of one.
Correspondent Barbara Sherf can be reached at CaptureLifeStories@gmail.com.