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Join the Call for Racial Justice at Biennial

Join the Call for Racial Justice at Biennial

Protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and Staten Island. Undeniable evidence of the mass incarceration of people of color. Revealing and powerful books by Bryan Stevenson, Michelle Alexander, Debby Irving and others. All of these have demonstrated forcefully to us that racism continues to exist in the United States both in our minds and deep within our institutions. They also call on us as Reform Jews, motivated by a long tradition of tikkun olam and by our own history of oppression and marginalization, to speak out and act out on behalf of a goal of true racial equality.

At the URJ Biennial, November 4-8, 2015 in Orlando, racial justice will be a central component of the Tikkun Olam track programming. There will be opportunities to engage in small-group conversations about race and racism, to hear from speakers working to promote racial equality and to strategize around the URJ’s racial justice work moving forward. Here are just a few of the many racial justice sessions that will be featured at Biennial this year:

Tikkun Olam Plenary Session – Thursday, November 5, 8:45 AM - 10:30 AM

During the plenary session on Thursday morning, NAACP President Cornell Brooks, who led the America’s Journey for Justice march in which hundreds of Reform rabbis participated this August, SEIU Local 615 President and International Executive Vice President Rocio Sáenz, a leading advocate for workers’ rights, and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, the director of the RAC, will take part in a special panel conversation about the continued struggle for racial justice and the Reform Movement’s role in advancing that cause.

The panel will be moderated by New York Times writer and editor Jodi Kantor and will be available as a livestream on the Biennial webpage.

In This Together: A Conversation about Why & How People of Faith Are Pursuing Racial Justice - Thursday, November 5, 2:15 PM - 3:30 PM - Palms-Royal Room

In the Tikkun Olam track keynote address, American Methodist Episcopal Reverend Jennifer Bailey will join Reform Movement leaders to discuss why people of faith should be mobilizing around racial justice at this critical moment, and how Reform Jews can join with friends and allies from other faith traditions to advance equality for all.

Bringing Our Hearts and Minds to Conversation and Action on Race in America: Small Group Discussions – Thursday, November 5, 11:15 AM - 12:30 PM – Grand 2, 3 & 4

Just Congregations and Rabbis Organizing Rabbis will lead this workshop, which will focus on exploring how we as Reform Jews understand racism through small-group discussions. There will be opportunities to talk about how racism manifests itself in each of our communities and to brainstorm together ways to make racial justice a focal point of the social justice work in our congregations.

Envisioning the Reform Movement’s Racial Justice Campaign and Your Next Steps – Thursday, November 5, 3:45 PM - 5:00 PM – Grand 8A

Join Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner of the RAC and Joy Friedman of Just Congregations and Rabbis Organizing Rabbis to discuss how the Reform Movement can address racial injustice. This will be an opportunity to hear about planning for the Movement’s national racial justice campaign and to consider how congregations can begin to work on racial justice in their communities and at a national level. Rabbis and congregants are strongly encouraged to participate together in this workshop.

Responding Locally to Racial Injustice: Learning from Example – Friday, Nov. 6, 2:15 PM - 3:30 PM – Denver Room

In this workshop, Reform leaders from around the country will share their own stories of getting involved in the fight against racial injustice, from building relationships with communities of color to advocating for public policies that reduce racial bias and discrimination, and then discuss how the lessons and best practices from these experiences can be applied to Reform congregations across the country.

Again, these are only a few of the many sessions in which racial justice will be discussed during the Biennial conference. We hope to see many of you at these conversations and workshops. For more information about the Biennial offerings on racial justice, or to learn more about the RAC is working join the call for racial justice, you can contact me at (202) 387-2800.

Adam Waters is a 2015-2016 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He grew up in Coral Springs, FL, and was a member of Temple Beth Orr. Adam graduated from Brown University.

Adam Waters