‘I Can’t Stand by and Watch’: American Jewish Activists Take to the Streets Following Killing of George Floyd

Standing in the middle of a crowd of protesters in Minneapolis last Thursday, Dr. Vivian Fischer felt a mix of grief, rage, solidarity and fear. The local Jewish resident and her 16-year-old son Max took to the streets to join those calling for racial justice. 

The Minnesotan city has been the center of major unrest following the death last week of George Floyd after on-duty police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Fischer is an urgent care physician. Although she has recently been furloughed, she was one of many medical professionals on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. She had been very careful about maintaining social distancing since the guidelines were introduced in March, but made the decision to attend the protest and to take her son with her. She wanted to teach him that “you cannot always flee danger – there are times that you choose not to,” she said, and that “speaking out for causes that are not directly related to you is important. 

“There are many voices that will tell him not to speak up for other people,” Fischer said. “He needs to hear from his mom that not only do you vote with your feet, but not just when it’s convenient or safe, and not just when it’s your issue.”

She added: “As humanity goes, this is all our issue.”

Demonstrators taking part in the protest against the killing of George Floyd, Minneapolis, May 28, 2020. Vivian Fischer

Triaging pain 

Fischer has been involved in social justice efforts via the Jewish Community Action, a Minnesota-based group founded some 25 years ago. Its aim, according to its website, is to “bring together Jewish people from diverse traditions and perspectives to promote understanding and take action on racial and economic justice issues in Minnesota.”