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Rabbi James Prosnit

jprosnit@congregationbnaiisrael.org

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jimRabbi James Prosnit has been Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, Connecticut, since 1990.  Prior to this, Rabbi Prosnit served as Associate Rabbi at both Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York City, and Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, Ontario. 

He received his B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University, and M.A. degrees from New York University (Education) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Hebrew Literature).  He was ordained from HUC-JIR in New York in 1981 and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2006.

Since 1990 he has also been an adjunct lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at Fairfield University. 

Rabbi Prosnit is involved in the rabbinic residency mentoring program for rabbinic students at HUC-JIR and has served as a mentor for the Ignatian Residential College at Fairfield University.
Among numerous community activities, Rabbi Prosnit is Past-President of Connecticut Against Gun Violence and serves as vice-chair of Operation Hope, a homeless shelter and social service agency in the Town of Fairfield.  He serves on the Inter-religious Affairs Commission and the Commission for Lifelong Learning for the Union for Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Prosnit lives in Fairfield, Connecticut, with his wife and three sons. 


Tevet/Shevat 5775
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From The
Rabbi's Desk
January 2015
Dr. King, Garner and Brown, and a Personal Reflection

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The observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday has always provided a good occasion to pause and reflect on race relations in our country. Certainly the events that we’ve witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island over the past several months have made this year’s remembrance of Dr. King an exceptionally important time to take stock of the very real divisions that are affecting our society.

A significant moment and recollection for me goes back 15 years or so. I was part of an inter-racial and inter-religious dialogue group at Norwalk Community College. The backdrop was two events in New York City: First, the assault of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, who was brutalized and sodomized by New York City police officers in a Brooklyn police station; second, the killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from Guinea who was shot 41 times by police officers who mistook his reaching for his wallet as reaching
for a gun.

At the time I remember thinking how the two were very distinct incidents. One was a case of sadistic police officers abusing their authority in a most horrific way. The other was a case of very bad policing, a tragic accident with no criminal intent. The African- American minsters in the dialogue group saw them as one in the same! To them each was an example of police brutality, racial profiling and targeting young men of color.

It was a clarifying moment for me that I remember these many years later. That conversation came flooding back this summer with the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the refusal of the Grand Juries to indict the police officers responsible. I gained from my dialogue group then an understanding that continues to today, namely that African-Americans have reason to see such events in a very different way and Whites cannot ignore the history and lack of trust between law enforcement and those in Black communities. If America is to live up to its value of equal justice for all, such disparities in our views must be addressed. 

If good can emerge from tragic events that tarnish our society, it’s not only the assessment of our justice system – it’s a commitment to individual action as we confront the prejudice and bigotry that lie in the recesses of our own hearts.

In Ferguson Missouri, it has been Houses of Worship (including my friend and classmate Rabbi Susan Talve) that have played perhaps the most valued role in quelling violence, providing spiritual support and leading the way to redress grievances. The hope of course is that those community efforts are in place long before a tragic occurrence arises. Through our participation in organizations like CONECT and other inter-faith and inter-racial coalitions, certain action plans are at work that seek to ameliorate the disparities and injustice existing in our community. Sadly, the Dream still has a ways to go.

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