This resolution was adopted by the Beth El Board of Directors on Jan. 21, 2022.
Racism poses a threat to our democracy and directly affects the Jewish community (see Appendix 1). Building on our Jewish commitment to social justice and our solidarity, as Jews, with other historically subordinated groups, we are obligated to speak up and take action to divest racism of its power within and beyond the Beth El community (see Appendix 2). Through this resolution, Beth El seeks to embed a racial equity lens into all aspects of congregational life.
We believe that:
Based on these values, the Board of Directors hereby establishes the goal of Beth El becoming an antiracist1 congregation that:
Through this Resolution, the Beth El Board authorizes the leaders of the Antiracism Working Group to partner with clergy, staff and members of the Board to:
By voting to approve this Resolution, the Beth El board commits to give its time and attention to accomplishing the goals described above. The Board will re-evaluate and, if needed, update this resolution in two years.
1 “When we choose to be antiracist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities…Being antiracist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it.”
— National Museum of African American History and Culture
2 “Racism is a system (consisting of structures, policies, practices and norms) that structures opportunity and assigns value based on…the way people look.”
— Confronting Institutionalized Racism, Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD
3 “Antiracism is the active dismantling of systems, privileges, and everyday practices that reinforce and normalize…white dominance.”
— What Anti-Racism Really Means – and How to Be Anti-Racist, Kimberle Crenshaw, JD, LLM
4 Once used only to describe racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacy is now used to describe a system of policies, practices and institutions built on the idea that people with white skin are superior to people with other skin colors. The system of white supremacy maintains white people’s access to power, privilege and wealth while creating barriers to Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color accessing those same resources.
— Adapted from Building an Antiracist Vocabulary, White People Challenging Racism: Moving From Talk to Action
The data are clear: racism threatens our democracy and directly affects the Jewish community.
In the United States, federal government data demonstrate “the nation’s persistent racial disparities in wealth, unemployment, incarceration rates, police killings, and more. Other studies clearly [show] the outsized impact of lack of access to healthy food, climate change, unequal education, and the coronavirus pandemic on Black and brown Americans. There is also a life expectancy racial gap….Average life expectancy is 59 years old [in Roxbury] and…92 [in the Back Bay], according to a 2012 Virginia Commonwealth University study.” (Source: Boston Globe, “Race inequities: the facts,” Aug 12, 2021)
Jews of color are estimated to comprise 12-15 percent of the American Jewish population, and this proportion is likely to increase in the future. (Source: Counting Inconsistencies.) A 2021 survey of more than 1,000 Jews of Color showed that “a vast majority of survey respondents (80%) agreed they have experienced discrimination in Jewish settings. More than half reported experiencing discrimination in a Jewish spiritual community, congregation, or synagogue. Just 20% have not experienced discrimination in Jewish settings. Their experiences took the form of both microaggressions and overt challenges to the validity of their Jewish identities. In Jewish communal settings, JoC have been ignored and also showered with unwanted attention.”
“[Survey] respondents described the variety of assumptions made about them. They have been repeatedly mistaken for security guards or nannies and presumed to be the non-Jewish partner or guest of a white Jewish person. In misguided efforts to make [Jewish spaces] more accessible and welcoming, JoC have been offered unsolicited explanations about Jewish rituals and practices. Many have been asked intrusive questions about how they became Jewish.” (Source: Beyond the Count: Perspectives and Lived Experiences of Jews of Color)
Founded in 1962, Beth El is proud of its long history of innovation. We have continually introduced new ways to enhance spiritual practice and advance social justice. We created the first feminist, egalitarian, gender-neutral prayer book in the U.S. which we still use today (in updated form, and now with English transliterations). We co-founded, and continue to co-sponsor, Students Together Opposing Prejudice (STOP) for middle and high school students. We have long supported immigrant rights, declaring ourselves to be a sanctuary congregation in 1987 and again in 2017.
Our clergy performed its first same-sex spiritual wedding in 1992, twelve years before same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Massachusetts and 23 years before it became the law of the land in the United States. Beth El members canvassed for Mass. Ballot Question 3 in 2018 which assured transgender equity in public spaces in Massachusetts. We have provided free health care to those who can’t afford it through the MetroWest Free Medical Program. And we are actively addressing climate change through Beth El’s Green Team.
Our work is never complete and we sometimes miss the mark. Following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, along with other police murders of Black Americans that were captured on cell phone videos, Beth El recognized the urgent need to step up to address racism and its deadly and destructive effects on Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). To that end, the Antiracism Working Group was formed in 2020 to mobilize Beth El toward becoming an antiracist congregation. The purpose of this resolution is to weave a commitment to antiracism into the entire fabric of our community.