Since Ta-Nehisi Coates published his influential Atlantic essay “The Case for Reparations” in 2014, a number of thinkers have made explicitly Jewish arguments for (and against) reparations for American slavery. Discussions have addressed concerns ranging from West German reparations to Israel, to Talmudic arguments, to the Jewish obligation to pursue justice. Educator and activist Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein argues in an article on Evolve that the case for reparations is presented clearly in the Torah itself. In this episode, Bernstein explores this claim, and what he thinks it means for present-day policies and politics. “I would love to reach a point where it is totally incoherent to be a politically-conscious Jew who cares about Torah at all, who isn’t in favor of reparations because it is the core political principle of our own religious identity.”
Theme song, “Ilu Finu” by Rabbi Miriam Margles. Her album This is the Day is available for purchase at CDBaby: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/miriammarglesandthehadarensemb
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- The Torah Case for Reparations: A Jewish View (Evolve Essay) — The biblical narrative of the Exodus from slavery understands the reparations taken by the Israelites to be an essential part of the redemption from servitude.
- The Torah Case for Reparations. (Longer Medium post)
- The Rod and the Whip: Accountability for Law Enforcement (YouTube) — Activist and Torah scholar, Aryeh Bernstein, explores what the Torah has to say about accountability for law enforcement, how the existing police contract is antithetical to it, and why it's so vital according to our tradition that we get this right.
- The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic — Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
- We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy - Ta-Nehisi Coates (Amazon link) — “We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time.
- H.R. 40: Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (2019; 116th Congress H.R. 40) - GovTrack.us — This bill establishes the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. The commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.
- Jon Burge | The Marshall Project — Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his crew tortured false confessions out of hundreds of black men. Decades later, the survivors fought for reparations.