Beth El Antiracism Working Group: 2022 in review
Here are highlights of the activities of the Beth El Antiracism Working Group in 2022.
Showing up for Black-led initiatives
- Members of the Antiracism Working Group (AWG) attended the grand opening of the Women Empowerment House in Dorchester. Executive Director Stacey Borden spoke at Beth El and the Antiracism Working Group led a household goods drive for Women Empowerment House.
- Following Borden’s lead, members of the AWG advocated throughout the year for the Jail and Prison Construction Moratorium in Massachusetts and participated in the #NoNewWomensPrison campaign.
- A member of the AWG helped plan the June 2022 “MetroWest Inter-Faith Vigil Against Hate: Standing with the Black Community After the Buffalo Massacre” vigil in Framingham, and other AWG members attended.
- The founder of Roxbury United Neighborhoods (RUN) met with the AWG to identify opportunities to share our skills, experience and networks with RUN.
- AWG members participated in a METCO-sponsored tour of Nubian Square in Roxbury.
- The AWG organized a Boston Black Heritage Trail Tour for Beth El members and friends.
Leading change in policies and practices
- A Beth El Antiracism Resolution drafted by the AWG was endorsed by the Beth El Board of Directors. AWG leadership met throughout the year with teams of clergy, staff and lay leadership to identify ways to bring an antiracism lens to all aspects of the congregation’s life.
- A letter regarding the depiction of Native Americans in public markers in Sudbury initiated by the AWG was sent from Rabbi Josh Breindel and other Sudbury Clergy Association members to the Sudbury Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission. As a result of the letter and follow-up, a community forum on this topic is now tentatively scheduled for Sunday, April 2, 2023 from 2–4 PM in Sudbury’s Goodnow Library Community Room.
- Children’s books with antiracism themes were added to the Beth El library collection.
Providing programs to the Beth El community and beyond
- The Antiracism Working Group organized a five-part antiracism workshop: “Our Liberation is Bound Together: Combating Racism, Antisemitism and White Supremacy” presented by Kavod Boston. Sponsored by the Antiracism Working Group, Tikkun Olam Committee, Combating AntiSemitism Task Force and Fund for the Future.
- “The Ongoing Journey: Rectifying Institutional Racism in the Arts” a presentation featuring Janie Cohen, director of the Fleming Museum of Art in Burlington, Vt., was co-sponsored by the AWG and Adult Education Committee
- “Sharing My Experience as the Rabbi of Brunswick, Home of Ahmaud Arbery,” an MLK Day presentation featuring Rabbi Rachael Bregman, who grew up at Beth El. Sponsored by the AWG and the Beth El Fund for Jewish Education and Culture.
- “Racial Justice and Communal Safety: Cultivating MLK’s Legacy,” an MLK Day program presented by Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton and featuring U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, was co-sponsored by the AWG.
- AWG leadership participated in the inaugural Sudbury Equity Summit, organized by Sudbury for Racial and Social Justice (S4RSJ).
- A Beth El MLK Day Shabbat Service featured reflections by AWG members.
- Two AWG members co-facilitated a group discussion at LimmudBoston on the topic of “Being a Jewish Antiracist: Can We Dismantle Antisemitism Without Dismantling White Supremacy?”
Offering monthly learning opportunities
- Our January monthly meeting featured a discussion of the New York Times article “BIPOC or POC, Equality or Equity? The Debate Over Language on the Left.”
- Our February monthly meeting featured a discussion of the Whoopi Goldberg controversy, including the Times of Israel piece on “What we can learn from Whoopi Goldberg about race” and David Baddiel on the Whoopi Goldberg controversy. The AWG shared an analysis it prepared: “Unpacking the Whoopi Goldberg Controversy.”
- Our March monthly meeting featured a short video, “Black People Are Tired,” followed by discussion about what it means to be a righteous white person/righteous Jew in the context of anti-Black racism in the United States.
- Our April monthly meeting featured a discussion of an article by Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein titled “What to the Black Jew is Passover?” Participants were invited to donate to a cause of Dr. Prescod-Weinstein’s choice.
- Our June monthly meeting featured a discussion of the article “White America’s racial illiteracy” by Robin DiAngelo.
- Our September monthly meeting featured a discussion of racism and “color-blindness.” We explored what it means to say one is “color blind” and why that concept is being reconsidered today. Readings included:
- Our November monthly meeting provided an opportunity to reflect on the topic of how antisemitism and racism are different, similar, and related. Prior to the session, people were asked to view “The Heart of White Nationalism” with Eric Ward. Together we viewed excerpts from a panel discussion on “AntiSemitism in America” (Manhattan JCC, Jan 29, 2019):
- Dove Kent excerpt: (8 minutes) starting at 1:08:57 and ending at 1:16:18
- Derek Black excerpt: (5 minutes) starting at 26:35 and ending at 31:11.
- Our December monthly meeting featured a discussion of the connection between antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, using this video as a springboard: “Antisemitism is Rising Because Bigotry is Rising” with Peter Beinart, starting at 0:55 and ending at 7:00.
Leading book and film discussions