BJ’s Racial Justice Initiative
In recent years, as our country witnessed more and more violent acts that claimed the lives of black Americans, BJ members, clergy, and staff alike, we began to ask ourselves: what would it look like for BJ to act on the issue of racial justice? How can we, how should we be allies? What is our role as a faith community to address racism and racial discrimination?
As we began to explore these questions, we learned that much of what we need to do begins with ourselves. Though there are many worthy issues that cry out for our attention and support, we decided not to jump into an external campaign but instead start with heshbon hanefesh: a soul accounting of the ways that race and racism play out in our individual hearts and minds, and in the collective BJ community.
Through community conversations, anti-racism workshops and trainings, and an examination of our Hebrew School curriculum, we are asking ourselves such questions as:
- What are our assumptions about who is, and who is not, part of the Jewish community—both at BJ and writ large? How can we break those assumptions?
- Where do those of us who identify as white harbor internalized prejudice or racism?
- Do those of us who identify as Jews of Color feel comfortable and at home at BJ? What are the barriers and how can those be dismantled?
We began this exploration with two sessions in September 2016, and are continuing at our upcoming pre-Passover workshop on Sunday April 2: A Seder on Privilege, Power and Race.
Concurrently, we wanted to find ways to educate ourselves about issues of racism in America, and partnered with the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew this past winter for a racial justice book study. Together we read and discussed Just Mercy, an account of racism in the criminal justice system by Bryan Stevenson, and we are exploring future opportunities to continue this learning.