Two weeks ago, several members of our congregation and I attended a virtual conference entitled, “Kol Tzedek: A Conference on Racial Justice,” presented by United Synagogue, our umbrella organization. It was an exceptional 6-hour experience.
The focus of the conference was a call for us to open our eyes and hearts to the changing face our Jewish community and how we might become participants in promoting equality and acceptance of people of color in our organization, to see what the future looks like (and in more urban settings already is), and to actively work for inclusion in all aspects of our community.
Here are some startling numbers, presented by Ilana Kauffman, keynote speaker:
1,000,000: number of Jews of Color in the United States;
At least 1 in 7 Jews are Jews of Color (minyans, Boards, pews, day schools);
Less than 1% of Jewish communal funding goes to supporting and investing in Jews of Color.
Here are a few of my take-aways from the conference:
Focus on the possibilities: 20% of families in our community identify as multiracial. Is there something about our organization that keeps Jews of Color away? Or keeps us from seeing them?
Get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations: How can we talk about difficult things (our own racism) without increasing division among us?
What can we learn from before “white” Jews became White?
Being anti-racist is an action: intentions don’t matter, only outcomes. Silence keeps racism in place.
Our synagogue community is the place to foster human and civic engagement that can lead to change: organize to humanize.
The time is right for us to engage with our members and the broader community to educate, build bridges and expand pathways There is a new consciousness and energy in the world since the George Floyd killing. Experienced by millions via Facebook, TV and YouTube, I cannot excuse or forget what I witnessed.
This past summer several of us gathered to organize the Committee on Racism & Social Justice (a subcommittee of Social Action) at Congregation Beth Ami.
Our first action was to present the virtual 3-part educational series with Benjamin Mertz in which many of you participated.
Next week, December 3, Reverend Dr. Lee Turner,Pastor of The Community Baptist Church, in Santa Rosa, will be our guest (see Cybershul for the flyer and link to the event.). Reverend Turner is not a stranger to Beth Ami, and I hope you will join us as we re-acquaint ourselves with Reverend Turner and learn how he navigates in the broader community as he leads, educates, engages with the members of his congregation.
Lots to think about as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday. I wish you all safe days ahead, seeing family and friends by phone, ZOOM or in person. I encourage you to reach out to those who are isolated or those you haven’t been able to see recently. Better times are coming between vaccines and sanity in the White House!
Be well, my friends. B’Shalom, Carolyn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS. Here’s a link to the “Purpose Statement” of the Committee on Racism & Social Justice. Members currently include Carol Swanson, Jerry Newman, Betty Boyd, Myra Thomas, Lyla Nathan, Carolyn Metz and Rabbi Miller. Interested? Contact Carol: email@example.com