Riot police patrol Ferguson, MO
Riot police patrol Ferguson, MOReuters

Several American Jewish groups have called for serious discussions about race, democracy and justice as well as greater tolerance and understanding, in the aftermath of a St. Louis grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who fatally shot an African-American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri in August.

The case has raised a furor; the officer stopped the unarmed teen after he stole from a local store, and according to reports a scuffle broke out in which there are indications the teen attacked the officer who proceeded to shoot him, saying he felt his life was in danger.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs issued a statement Wednesday calling for both peaceful demonstration and “locally led serious, civil and hard conversations on race, opportunity, and representative democracy in America today.”

“When we face great injustices in our society, they must be confronted. We must turn our attention now towards bettering our society, towards working for social justice in eradicating poverty and economic inequality, mending race relations, working towards a fair criminal justice system, increasing the public’s faith in our government institutions and eliminating the perceived disconnect between these institutions and the democratic process,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, JCPA President wrote in the statement.

“Peaceful demonstration, democratic engagement and the rule of law are bedrock values of America and must be respected. However, violence is never the answer, and it will not heal the problems we face. In fact, it will exacerbate and add to them," he added, likely referencing the ongoing riots and lootings in the wake of the incident.

American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger echoed the JCPA's concern about American society, claiming Michael's Brown's shooting was a "glaring failing" of our society.

"This failing of our system is not a personal foible or one-time event but is rooted in the history of racism which - despite all the progress we have made as a society - still diminishes our justice system,” she said.

“As Jewish advocates for human rights, we must stand for justice at home and around the world. We understand from our historical experience what it means to have our lives treated by government authorities as being less valuable than those of others.”

The Anti-Defamation League, in their statement, said they respected the Missouri grand jury's decision not to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson, but gave similar sentiments to JCPA and AJWS, calling the tragedy a wake-up call "reminding us that the problems we face as a nation transcend Ferguson." 

“Fifty years after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, our society is still not free from bias, racial prejudice, and discrimination,"  Karen Aroesty, ADL St. Louis regional director, and Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, stated jointly.

"African-Americans are still the most frequent targets of hate crimes in America. Black students are suspended or expelled from our public schools at a much higher rate than white students, and there are many other examples that show the continuing racial divide."

For Jack Engelhard's response to the shooting, click here.