Hineini-Here I Am: Join Our Racial Justice Campaign

October 11, 2021Yolanda Savage-Narva

On October 14,2021 George Floyd would have turned 48 years old -- if he were alive.  His murder as well as the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor sparked a racial reckoning in the United States and around the world that ignited a hunger for awareness, action, and activism not rivaled since the 1960s.  

In response to the current racial reckoning as well as to centuries of oppression and systemic racism towards Black and Brown people in this country, on April 28, 2021, the Reform Movement launched a Racial Justice Campaign. As Reform Jews, we are committed to dismantling systems of oppression; fighting for racial justice and equity; combatting antisemitism; and working as catalysts for change to create a whole, just community of belonging for everyone.  

The Racial Justice Campaign is tackling systemic racism in 4 ways:  

  1. Demanding policy change on a national level in support of the Freedom to Vote Act 
  2. Advocating for racial justice legislation at the state and local levels 
  3. Partnering with the Canadian Reform movement to address mandatory minimum laws
  4. Supporting congregations; camps, and the broader community to address the oppression we know exists inside our communities, by providing training and resources around the implementation of anti-racism work

There’s still time to get involved in the Racial Justice Campaign. We need your help!  We need your voice! Hineini-Here I Am. Learn more about the campaign and how to get involved.

As a person who lives at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities the Racial Justice Campaign and the ongoing REDI work is very important to me (and my family), not because I will be directly impacted by the work, but because our children’s children will be. We are paving a path of equity, justice, fairness and belonging for them, and I hope they will do the same for their descendants. We will be creating a world better than the one we inherited. Hineni-Here I Am. 

So, where do we go from here? In a world that continues to get more complicated, more divided, and more oppressive, we can begin by turning to our sacred texts for grounding and guidance. In the Talmud, we learn that all people descend from a single person, so that no person can say, “My ancestor is greater than yours.” Our tradition teaches that God created humanity from the four corners of the earth: yellow clay, white sand, black loam, and red soil. Therefore, the earth is the rightful home for all humanity and all belong here equally (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). 

5782 is a ShmitaShmita שְׁמִטָּהA year of “release,” described in the Torah (Ex 23:11; Lev 25:2,5-7; Deut 15:1-2) as occurring every seventh year, during which the land of Israel is not farmed, debts are remitted, and slaves granted freedom.  year, a Sabbatical Year; where the Torah calls for Jews to work the land for 6 years and to let it rest in the seventh. What does that mean for the work we have ahead for racial justice? 

As I see it, this Shmita year calls on us to deepen our work around racial justice in the following ways: 

  1. Take time for more introspection; doing so will help deepen the work around racial justice and make us more resilient.
  2. Be mindful that what you do now is important for the future. 
  3. Be aware of what sustains, challenges, inspires, and motivates you as you continue this work. 

Here are 3 of the URJ’s Audacious Hospitality/REDI resources designed to help you navigate the challenging demands of the struggle for racial justice and REDI: 

  1. Participate in the Racial Justice Campaign.
  2. Register for the upcoming REDI trainings:  

    October 12, 8-9:30p EST: Understanding the Impact of Whiteness & White Dominant Culture: A space for white Jewish/Jewish Adjacent people to engage in antiracist skill building, stamina, and resistance

    October 15, 12-1:30p EST: Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) 101
  3. Find more helpful Audacious Hospitality Resources on our website.

A final thought: Oftentimes, challenging and hard times are described as being in a dark place or void of light. Sometimes being in a dark place is where we must be, for true transformation happens in spaces devoid of light. That is where deep introspection occurs, allowing the light to shine in and growth to take place. Please join us in saying, Hineni, Here I Am. 

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