Reflecting, Relating and Reforming to Foster Racial Justice in our Country

December 24, 2015Joy Friedman

The Reform Movement’s Racial Justice Campaign starts with ourselves, then turns to the partners and coalitions in our community, and then turns to the systems and structures that govern our society. Through three stages, “the three R’s,” we will together embark on a campaign to be allies in the work to dismantle structural racism:

For 45 days this summer, in the heat of August, nearly 200 Reform rabbis joined the NAACP and its many partners for a symbolic march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. The march, called “America’s Journey for Justice” (AJFJ), called for structural and cultural changes that demonstrate that the jobs, schools, votes, and lives of black Americans matter. The number of rabbis who chose to spend the time and resources to join AJFJ was remarkable, as were the encounters these rabbis experienced on the journey.

Many of the rabbis who joined the march recounted their experiences walking alongside people who helped open their eyes to the structural racism that remains a scourge in our country through telling their stories.

Rabbi David Spinrad at The Temple in Atlanta, GA, cited in his Rosh Hashanah sermon some statistics that demonstrate our country’s current racial inequality:

Rabbi Spinrad asked, “How does all of this impact our congregation?” And his answer is a reminder to us all, “We are not talking about points of data on a page. We are talking about human lives. These are our sisters and our brothers and we all live under the same God.”

Systemic racism is woven into the fabric of our country. How can we - as individuals, as leaders, as congregations, and as a Reform Movement - tear down the racism that is embedded into our society?

Our efforts to dismantle structural racism start with examining ourselves - with our communities and with the values of our Torah at the center. But we cannot end there. Reform Jews can be allies to communities of color by being in deep relationships, and together acting to dismantle structural racism. Seek peace, seek justice, in your own place - and from there, bring peace and justice to the entire world.

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