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Racial Justice Work at TBZ

Shalom TBZ Community, 

We are living in a racially charged moment. Many organizations have racial justice at the forefront of their minds and their work this summer. But here at TBZ we began our worktowards racial justice in the fall of 2019 when several people expressed interest in launching a wide-ranging initiative. They became the Racial Justice Working Group. At the first meeting, a three-pronged approach was outlined for our synagogue:awareness of racism as individuals, practice of cultural competency at TBZ, and taking action for racial justice in the wider community. Since then, TBZ has moved on all of these fronts. 

Following the initial planning meeting last fall, The Racial Justice Working Group connected with Kavod to run their Anti-Racism workshop, Our Liberation is Bound Together, with TBZ members. This would serve to help us in our goal of becoming aware of racism and help us examine racist practices within TBZ.  After much thoughtful planning, the workshop was scheduled to begin after Pesach, a fitting spiritual exercise during the Omer period, as we collectively move from slavery to liberation. However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to cancel, much to the immense disappointment of the Working Group and those who planned to sign up.

TBZ and GBIO leaders who sit on the Tikkun Olam Steering committee (TOSC) have been working with us on health care access and affordability as well as criminal justice and most recently police reform. Jonathan Klein, a member of TOSC, has been working on racial justice in the wider community, inviting us to work towards housing justice in Brookline through the Building a Better Brookline forums, which have been happening successfully before and during the pandemic. Since race has been catapulted to the front of American consciousness, TOSC has decided that all of our work in the coming year will be for racial justice. And yet, TBZ has always been working for racial justice through many Tikkun Olam pathways, including our gun violence prevention action group, economic equality group, climate action group and immigration task force, because racial injustice is deeply interwoven into these core issues of our country. 

Additionally, last winter, a subcommittee began to plan a trip for TBZ to the South to learn about the legacy of civil rights there and bring back renewed commitment to continuing the fight for racial justice. We were in the stages of finalizing the itinerary when Covid struck and we decided that we would not be able to travel this October. 

In June, TBZ member, Stephen Hodin, led us on an exploration of the book Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Rankine’s work allowed us a glimpse into the experience of a Black woman in America and the microaggressions and injustices she experiences. In breakout rooms, we processed her words and found similarities and differences in our own experiences. Conversations that began in those rooms continued over email and highlighted the need for a place for sharing resources and continuing conversations. We are planning to continue reading important books together and are considering Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates for our next exploration. 

A subcommittee of our Working Group sought opinions from our community in the design of a banner to affirm our stance on racial justice. Not only do Black lives matter, but they matter within the community of TBZ. This, we believe, is connected to Deuteronomy 16:20 where we are strongly commanded to pursue justice as it is written:צדק צדק תרדוף , Justice, Justice you shall pursue.

TBZ is looking to engage a professional consultant to guide us as we grow, individually and as a community, in the three areas outlined above. Because we are committed to effective change, we want to follow a clear path with various opportunities to achieve our goals.  

Finally, two ways you can learn more about what we’re doing:

We hope you will join us on one or all of the paths of racial justice. Confronting racism within ourselves allows us to confront racism at TBZ. On that foundation, TBZ can stand for racial justice in the world. 

In Solidarity,

The Racial Justice Working Group of TBZ:

Barrie Keller

Rosalind Joffe

Susan Bookbinder

Martha Gray

Lisa Lovett

Beilah Ross

Jane Daniels

Jan Darsa 

Fran Adams 


Rav Claudia

Rav Tiferet 

Thu, May 6 2021 24 Iyyar 5781