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10Days10Ways: Racial Justice Reflections

This framework of 10 days of Awe · Racial Justice Reflections was developed by Temple Israel of Boston’s Tikkun Central, which works toward the mission of living Judaism together through righteous impact.

Sign up to engage in righteous action during the 10 Days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—and beyond!

During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we as Jews challenge ourselves and our communities to reflect thoughtfully and honestly on transgressions and harms we have caused in the past year, both knowingly and unknowingly. Each of us engages differently in this tradition known as cheshbon ha’nefesh, an accounting of the soul, as we reach towards growth and transformation in the coming year. 

As a Jewish community living in a society where racial injustice has defined our history and our present, we are inspired by Jewish tradition to participate collaboratively in a process of personal and communal teshuvah, reflection, and accountability. We see a powerful opportunity in engaging our minds and spirits by learning about and turning towards racial justice in our relationships, our neighborhoods, our communities/organizations, and in our society. Grasping how racism has impacted all of our lives and histories, participants can together build trust, connection, and the resilience to transform ourselves and the brokenness we live with each day. 

In this spirit, Judea Reform will be offering the 10Days10Ways: Racial Justice Reflections in a daily email digest as an invitation to learn more about the ways that race in our society has influenced and shaped a wide range of systems in our society.  Each day subscribers will receive an email offering a short, medium, and deep dive into a specific topic related to race in our society and highlighting Judea Reform’s commitment to Social Justice in this area. Daily topics include White Supremacy, Refugee and Immigrant Justice, Hunger and Food Insecurity, Criminal Justice Reform, Housing, Public Health, Education, Voting Rights, and more. To sign up for your daily digest of ways to engage subscribe here, or email our Social Action Committee at socialaction@judeareform.org.

 

Day 10: Building on the Mitzvot

Today is the tenth and final day of our journey on which we will reflect on our commitment to community and collective response to social action through a racial justice lens. As Jews, we are deeply committed to Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. 

Over the past nine days, we have reflected on and offered opportunities to learn more with a perspective of race and racism, take action and engage more deeply in areas in which our members of our congregation and social action team work:

  1. Talking about racism & white supremacy
  2. Refugee resettlement & immigrant justice
  3. Hunger and food insecurity
  4. Criminal justice reform
  5. Safe, dignified & affordable housing
  6. Public health
  7. Climate justice
  8. Civic engagement & voting rights
  9. Education equity

We invite you to hear Rabbi Soffer's powerful words in this video and to use our follow up form to help us understand which areas resonate most with you and other congregants, and to help inform our racial justice initiative. 

Please take a few moments to complete our 10Days10Ways Follow Up Form to help inform our program, and to get connected to the social justice work that most interests you.  You may also reply to this message with a brief note about your interests and our Social Action team will help you get connected!

 

Day 9: Education

Since the rabbinic era, study and learning have been treasured pillars of Judaism. In the United States, public education has served Jews as a chief means of climbing the socio-economic ladder; what’s more, the educational arena became a key setting through which Jews argued successfully for pluralism as a linchpin of American democracy. However, a growing body of research shows us that the American school system plays a central role in establishing and replicating devastating racial and economic inequities. How do we change the conversation from one of “equality of opportunity” to “equity”--ensuring that each student receives according to their need? How can we, as Jews, transform America’s schools into engines of learning, democracy, and equity for all young people?
 
We have several options for you to learn more and to take a meaningful action in this area:

Option 1:

Check out this graphic and consider donating to local nonprofit Book Harvest.

Option 2: Watch, Listen...

  • I’m Smart Too a 28-minute documentary (dir. Kim Talikoff) premiering this weekend at the Charlotte Film Festival, explores the challenge of racial inequities in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. (Link available until Tuesday, 9/29; please do not share beyond the JRC community.)
  • Nice White Parents, a podcast series from the New York Times (5 episodes/approx. 55 minutes each), illuminates how a group of parents wielded whiteness and societal privilege to reshape a Brooklyn public school to serve their own interests--while remaining largely blind to the workings of their own power.

Option 3:

Learn more about Student U’s work with underserved students in Durham Public Schools and volunteer for its online tutoring program here.

 

Day 8: Civic Engagement & Voting Rights

The right to vote was not a given. It was a hard-won right and people gave their time, energy, reputations and yes, even their lives to secure that right. Our democracy depends on our voting. Not that long ago, our ancestors suffered the unimaginable consequences of powerlessness in their country. Our Vote is our Voice. As Jews, we have a responsibility to fight for equality for every citizen, especially those of color whose voting rights have been and continue to be suppressed. We have the responsibility to vote, and we have the responsibility to enable and encourage every citizen to exercise that right.

Option 1:

Make a Plan to Vote during early voting, or absentee mail-in ballot, or on election day, November 3; and research your ballot on vote411.org (award-winning, secure site from the non-partisan League of Women Voters).
Durham voters - Leaders at our Durham-based Historically Black University, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) ask people in our community who plan to Vote Early in person (October 15-31) to cast their vote at NCCU’s polling site at the Law School (640 Nelson St).  This polling location is under threat of future closure due to low utilization.  We have an opportunity to help save this polling site. Early voting info for Durham County is here.

Option 2:

Learn more about NC voting rights through these two short articles: NC Voter Suppression Info - from the ACLU and Voting rights for former felons in NC

Option 3: Volunteer!

  • Nonpartisan Phone Bank with Reclaim Our Vote to encourage voters of color to exercise their right to vote. Reclaim Our Vote is a nonpartisan, voting rights organization that empowers underrepresented voters in voter suppression states such as North Carolina. To sign up or learn more about to text banking with Reclaim Our Vote click here.
  • Become a Vote Protector Through DemocracyNC: The tasks are to monitor polling places, flagging long lines; problems with curbside voting or accessibility; voter confusion; and misinformation or voter suppression. Due to COVID-19, Vote Protectors will only be asked to carry out tasks that can be done without person-to-person contact. Any interaction with voters or other individuals will be purely optional and at the discretion of each Vote Protector.

After the election - no matter the results, pledge to work for a more equitable society with true equality and equity.

 

Day 7: Climate Justice

Our response to climate change, our greatest existential threat, is integral to our response to the immediate threats of the pandemic and the troubled economy  which disproportionately impact our communities of color. The location of power plants, coal ash ponds, manufacturing plants and CO2 intense highways all disproportionately impact the health of nearby black and brown communities resulting in a disproportionate infection and death rate from COVID 19. The job losses from the pandemic have fallen largely on service sector workers who are predominantly black and brown.

The expansion of renewable energy, the creation of electric vehicles, the retrofitting of existing buildings, and the construction of new energy efficient buildings will create millions of new jobs, and eliminate pollution producing power plants and highways.

By helping to create economic and environmental justice, climate change mitigation can work in concert with the Black Lives Matter Movement.

We have several options for you to learn more and to take a meaningful action in this area:

Option 1:

Read the RAC’s position on climate justice and prepare to take action

Option 2:

Learn about the Clean Energy sector in NC and take action with Citizens Climate Lobby, Sunrise Movement, or the climate justice organization of your choice

Option 3:

Read Hot, Flat and Crowded, by Thomas Friedman (available at the library or your favorite bookseller - more info on wikipedia

 

Day 6: Public Health

In the Days of Awe, we remember the value Tikkun Olam and healing the world through our actions. During this public health crisis, protecting children from the diseases that we can prevent is more important than ever. The World Health Organization warns that more than 80 million infants are at risk for missing vaccines this year due to disruptions in services related to COVID-19. The value of vaccines goes far beyond the prevention of illness and disease. Good health opens doors to educational attainment, gender equity, and social and economic prosperity. Ensuring the health and well-being of children is a responsibility we all share and is strongly reflected in our Jewish values.

There is a critical need for blood – now more than ever. On Sunday October 25, Judea Reform and the Levin JCC are hosting a blood drive at the J with The Blood Connection (the same organization that hosted our Mitzvah Day Blood Drive in February). As a blood donor, you will not only help your own community with live-saving blood, you will also be helping the global community with life-saving vaccines. For each blood donor screened, The Blood Connection will donate $20 to Vaccine Ambassadors, a NC-based nonprofit (co-founded by Jackie Kaufman) that provides vaccines to vulnerable children and families in Latin America and the Caribbean. Twenty dollars can provide an estimated 28 measles/rubella vaccines or 65 diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus vaccines.

We have several options for you to learn more and to take a meaningful action in this area:

Option 1:

Protect yourself and your community against the flu – get vaccinated if you are eligible!

Option 2:

Sign up for an appointment to donate blood at our October 25 drive at the JCC. The Blood Connection will donate $20 to the Vaccine Ambassadors for every donor screened!

Option 3:

Get involved and be a Vaccine Ambassador to a child or a community.

 

 

Day 5: Safe, Dignified, & Affordable Housing

Safe, Dignified and Affordable housing is important. Low wages, domestic violence, and gentrification are among the reasons people have a hard time finding or remaining in affordable housing. Habitat for Humanity is working hard to help fill the need. Our participation in monthly workdays lowers the cost of a new home making it more affordable. Each Habitat house greatly improves the lot of a family: better living conditions, pride, greater financial stability, and a step towards building wealth.

Domestic Violence is a significant cause of homelessness among women and children.  Supporting Compass Center gives me hope that someone who is in a soul crushing situation will have somewhere to turn to for help. Our society does not like to talk about domestic violence, but it is an issue that affects at least 25% of us at one time or another. It is a complex issue for people whose lives are entangled with another person who is hurting them, physically and emotionally.  Currently Orange County does not have crisis shelter for people needing an immediate escape from a dangerous situation, but Compass Center is creating this now, and it's meaningful to me to be part of this effort.

We have several options for you to learn more and to take a meaningful action in this area:

Option 1: Learn More

Option 2: 

  • Watch PBS film Eastlake Meadows and think about parallels in our community.
  • Save the dates to join the JRC delegation for Durham CAN's physically distant, Silent Vigil/Jericho Walk around the site of the former Fayetteville Street Project in Durham's historic Hayti neighborhood on Wednesday October 14 at 5 PM (rain date Wednesday October 21). Durham CAN intends to provide livestream access for the event as well. Note Part 2: Virtual action/meeting take place on Thursday October 15th at 6pm via Zoom (regular Metro Council meeting time) (rain date Thursday October 22nd). More info here.

Option 3:

Get involved and participate in Judea Reform’s work on safe, dignified and affordable housing.

 

 

Day 4: Criminal Justice Reform

Our criminal justice system is not just. The entire system was set up and refined to punish and discourage upward mobility and disenfranchise the poor and those without influence, especially people of color. The war on drugs, disproportionate sentencing, mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, the bail bond industry, prison and jail construction, and certifying juvenile defendants as adults are all proven and effective tools in maintaining the social and economic order of the haves and the have nots. This is our work. As we read each Passover: “in each generation, each person is obligated to see himself or herself as though he or she personally came forth from Egypt."
We have several options for you to learn more and to take a meaningful action in this area:

Option 1: 

Listen and Reflect: Professor David Harris takes on building an understanding of what's wrong with the criminal justice system – and what to do about it.

Option 2: 

Learn about the work of Jewish communities in criminal justice reform - 
from the Jewish Federation Cincinnati: A Call to Action: Jews and Criminal Justice Reform, from Shir Tikvah (Minnesota): Zedek Summit: A Jewish Perspective On Criminal Justice Reform, From T’Ruah: Handbook for Jewish Communities Fighting Mass Incarceration.

Option 3: 

Read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy or Watch the 2019 Film Just Mercy. Come to Durham CAN meetings and get involved with the Criminal Justice Reform Action Team!

 

 

Day 3: Food Insecurity & Hunger

Food insecurity (the inability to access nutritious and adequate amounts of food on a regular basis) is a reality for a significant number of people in the US, in North Carolina and here in the Triangle. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this reality worse
For many years, Judea Reform has supported three organizations which help address food insecurity in Durham and Orange counties, the Durham CROP Hunger Walk, Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD), and IFC (Interfaith Council in Orange county) – these latter two provide both shelter and meals. With the Durham Jewish community, we also provide a monthly meal for the clients of Urban Ministries of Durham. 
We have several options for you to learn more and to take a meaningful action in this area:

Option 1:

Participate in the Durham CROP Hunger Walk by pledging to walk with your family for up to three miles and making a donation to our congregational Tzedekah Box. Tzedakah contributions from July through October will be donated to UMD, IFC and Crop Walk.

Option 2:

Make a casserole or donate food for UMD dinner. Sign up to help with our October or November dinners or reply to this message to contact Judy Holland to offer your support for an upcoming meal or learn more.

Option 3:

Learn more about food insecurity in Durham HERE and if you are comfortable doing so, volunteer with Fed Up and CJJ) or join with Judea Reform's Social Action committee to combat hunger and build food security in our community..

 

 

Day 2: Refugee Resettlement & Immigrant Justice

Based on Jewish teachings and values, Judea Reform fully supports and advocates for refugee resettlement and immigrant justice. We actively strive to welcome the stranger - in our congregation, community and country. For many of us, this is personal; while today’s immigrants and refugees may not look like us, we see our parents and grandparents in the faces of those who have come to America fleeing persecution and unlivable futures in their homelands. We see it as our responsibility to take action to end racist policies that separate families seeking asylum - imprisoning them in inhumanely managed for-profit detention facilities,  police practices that target immigrants in our communities based on race leading to separations and detention without due process. We feel proud of the richness and diversity that today’s immigrants bring to our country and advocate, support and welcome them.  
Today, we encourage you to take a short. medium or deeper dive into reflection and action.

Option 1:

Send messages of hope to immigrants detained at Stewart in Lumpkin, GA (see toolkit from El Refugio)

Option 2:

Watch “Immigration Nation” on Netflix and discuss w friends using “Ally Guide

Option 3:

Volunteer on a regular basis with recently arrived refugees in our community via our partner CWS-Durham or with immigrants via another local organization. 

 

 

Day 1: Discussing Race and White Supremacy

Thank you for joining us on our 10 Days 10 Ways social justice journey. Today is the first day of our journey on which we will reflect on the Jewish call to practice tikkun olam and address racism and white supremacy. As  Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner noted in the Union for Reform Judaism’s May 2020 statement, the US cannot truly be a society embodying the value of ‘justice for all’ until we confront racism. In this spirit, we invite you to engage with us to learn about how to support people of color within the Jewish community and beyond, both directly and on a systemic level. We have several options for you to learn more and to take a meaningful action in this area:

Option 1:

From Alma: "A Guide to Talking to Your White Jewish Family About Anti-Black Racism" or “Wholly Jewish” podcast (with April Baskin, former URJ VP, speaks with Jews of Color who share their experiences, insights, and how their identities enrich and create a more vibrant Jewish community)

Option 2:

Learn about racism and white supremacy in American history by listening to this podcast with authors Sandy Darity and Kirsten Mullen, and then sign up to attend an online talk by these authors Thursday, September 24 at 6:00pm Flyleaf books - here's the link.

Option 3:

Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work For Racial Justice, 4th Ed. by Paul Kivel

Our Commitment to Racial Justice

At Shabbat Services on June 5, 2020 (watch the recording here: Shabbat Services), Rabbi Soffer spoke from the heart about how our core Jewish values are the strength that we — as individuals, a congregation, and as a nation — need to draw on right now with our nation in crisis. Confronting the disease of racism in addition to COVID-19, standing in front of our pillars of our Judea Reform Building, Rabbi Soffer invoked Judea’s pillars as our guideposts: Justice (Tzedek), Truth (Emet), Torah, Compassion (Chesed), Worship (Avodah), Peace (Shalom).  Speaking words of honesty and passion, he began “I feel obliged to address you from our own space with what is in my heart and the heart of many in our community.”

Watch here: Rabbi Soffer's sermon “Our Pillars, Our Promise”   

As Rabbi Soffer said, “What can we do right now? How can we leverage our distinct influence as a community and as individuals?” 

Judea Reform is, in fact, a multiracial congregation including individuals and family members of color who are experiencing extra pain at this moment. We extend our love and wholehearted support to the People of Color and multiracial families in our own community.

Recognizing that our Torah describes all human beings as created in God's image, the disease of racism requires us all to look deeply inward — to identify our own biases, and educate ourselves about the multi-layered history of systemic racism and violence in our country. In the coming days, weeks, months ahead, Judea Reform will thoughtfully address how our congregation and congregants can take action in the short, medium, and long term; from recommended ways to donate to educating ourselves about our own biases to rebuilding long-term coalitions to strengthening relationships across lines of difference (within and beyond congregation.) We all know this is not easy work and yet we know we cannot desist from it.

Our Social Action Committee invites all who are interested to join the conversation. Register here if you want a link to join the regularly scheduled Social Action Committee meetings or email socialaction@judeareform.org with your interest in exploring this work.

As inboxes are flooded with reading lists and calls to action, we wanted to use this moment to draw your attention to Jewish resources and perspectives as a contribution to your and our effort to apply a lens of Jewish values to this painful and complicated moment. These are statements, articles, first-person accounts — all resources from Jewish sources, including our Reform movement and partner organizations. These resources are not meant to be prescriptive, nor as an endorsement, but simply as a contribution to learning. 

North Carolina Jewish Clergy Statement
NC Rabbis & Cantors' Statement (June 5,2020) affirming their commitment to racial justice: Read here.
 
Reform Jewish Rabbis Respond 

  • Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, “Ways Your Congregation Can Act Now for Racial Justice” (Union for Reform Judaism Blog):  Read here.
  • Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, “Witnessing Protests, Rage, and Our Torah’s Unbending Demand for Justice” (URJ/RAC statement):  Read here.
  • Rabbi Josh Weinberg, “When the Holy Act of Kneeling Becomes a Weapon” (ReformJudaism.org):  Read here.

 
Some of Our Jewish Partner Organizations' Response to Supporting Racial Justice

Voices of Jews of Color

Other Voices

Two years ago Judea Reform signed the Religious Action Center’s Brit Olam — a covenant with our world — to commit to creating a world in which all people experience wholeness, justice, and compassion. Since then, the urgency of our work has only grown. The Brit Olam reminds us of the words from Pirkei Avot: “Study alone is not enough, our tradition demands action.” 

Local Spiritual Responses to Racism and Violence

Durham Congregations in Action (DCIA) has created on its website a page of sermons, meditations, letters and reflections from faith and spiritual perspectives, about racism and violence in the wake of events the past couple of weeks. We invite ministers and others in the Durham area to continue to share items for posting or linking online at this page. Please email your document as an attachment, or a weblink to your document/blog/sermon-recording, to dcia@dcia.org. All are welcome to browse and review the postings on this page!

Our Pillars, Our Promise: A Video Message

Wed, December 2 2020 16 Kislev 5781