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Racial Equity Newsletter Issue 1:
Introduction

Introducing the First Racial Equity Newsletter from Temple Beth El

Every other month, we will share articles, podcasts, video, and other media that are informed by and contribute to the conversation around racial equity. Each issue will be followed by a discussion session, where Temple members can come together to share their reflections and reactions. We will share news of upcoming events in the community, and opportunities for further learning.

Rabbi Greg Weisman, Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
Letter from Rabbi Greg Weisman

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which shared the news of the Emancipation Proclamation with the residents of Texas. Although the Civil War was already over, it took this action to formally free the last of the enslaved people in this country. In celebration and commemoration of that order, June 19 is celebrated as Juneteenth, marking the emancipation of all enslaved people in the United States. 

In the 156 years since then the fight for racial justice has continued. There have been moments of great success, like the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and moments of great tragedy like the Tulsa race massacre. People of color have risen to high office in federal and state governments, and continue to experience unfair treatment in communities all around the nation.

For the past year and a half, many members of Temple Beth El have engaged in conversations around race and racial equity. We were blessed to be guided by our friends at the Thrive Collective in Delray Beach. As Thrive partner Sara Selznick taught us this past February, when it comes to fighting inequity, “learning is doing.” And so with their help and support, we are proud to continue our learning journey through this newsletter, Equality. We share this newsletter on this day as a commemoration of Juneteenth, that its message of equality will continue to reverberate in the years to come.

As we open this new chapter in our work, may we be inspired by the words of Torah to pursue justice for all our neighbors as we do for ourselves.

Equality Issue 1: June 17, 2021
Welcome Message from Jan Fine and Joel Ivers of the Racial Equity Task Force

The temple has begun an in-depth exploration of racial inequities. We are initiating this work because it is clear that not everyone is afforded the same opportunities and freedoms. We are inspired by our Jewish tradition to form this initiative to further understand this problem through education and to take appropriate actions to overcome these inequities. This newsletter, and the subsequent discussions to be held on Zoom after each issue, is part of that effort. It is our hope that many temple members will want to join this work to expand their personal knowledge and to investigate areas where their actions can further alleviate this widespread problem. 

Civil Rights Journey 2020 with Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

The seeds of this work began in February, 2020 when a group of 42 temple members, lead by Rabbi Greg Weisman, traveled on a Civil Rights Journey to the Deep South.  The group traveled to Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham to visit the historic sites of the civil rights movement. Highlights included attending church services at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, walking over the Edmond Pettis bridge, and touring the National Center for Human and Civil Rights (lynching memorial) and so much more.

Civil Rights Journey 2020 with Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
Civil Rights Journey 2020 with Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

Following the trip, a series of book readings and discussions took place over Zoom lead by Rabbi Weisman. Those who were on the trip and other members of the temple participated in these readings and discussions. Books read included White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, and Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.

After these books were read and discussed with as many as 60 temple members, we felt a strong need to do more. A small leadership group was formed to create a program whereby this work could be expanded to all temple members. This group includes Jan Fine, Joel Ivers, Tracey Labgold, Ken Namerow, Michelle Lobovits, Dana Pina, Hanita Schreiber, and Rabbi Weisman. The group partnered with The Thrive Collective of Delray Beach for further education and for program planning. This newsletter is the first manifestation of that work.

The leadership group realized early on that a Mission and a Vision was needed to accurately and succinctly communicate what is hoped this work will encompass. Please take a minute or two to review these important statements so that you will have a better understanding of this undertaking:

Temple Beth El Racial Equity Initiative Mission

Temple Beth El’s racial equity mission is to inspire our congregation and community to do our part to dismantle systemic racism and build a more just world through education, relationship building and advocacy.

Temple Beth El Racial Equity Initiative Vision

Inspired by Jewish tradition and our people’s belief that every human being is a divine creation, motivated by our obligation to see and seek the divinity in every human being, Temple Beth El of Boca Raton‘s racial equity initiative seeks to inspire members to achieve racial equity in their own lives and the lives of all they encounter.
 
Congregation members who join this effort will:

 

  • Participate in educational programs to recognize systemic racism in our society.
  • Organize educational opportunities for the temple community to understand how racial equity affects our lives.
  • Inspire the next generation through educational opportunities for our Early Learning Center and Religious School families.
  • Develop skills to engage in community efforts to improve racial equity.
  • Pursue partnerships in local, statewide, or national organizations working toward racial equity.
  • Join with faith-based institutions to expand our power and depth of resource in our community.
  • Internalize the concept of racial equality and act on it daily, becoming a catalyst to have others act in the same fashion.
  • Ultimately, activate our power, our resources, our wisdom, and our relationships to overcome systemic racism and the imbalances it creates.

We hope you will join us in this worthy task. We will begin our efforts by providing the first educational topic below. You will be asked to read articles, or view short films, podcasts, etc. A discussion of these materials will take place on Zoom within about 3 weeks after the publication of each newsletter. Expect to see these newsletters with new topics every other month. These newsletters will cover a variety of aspects of racial equity. More programs and activities will be announced using this email newsletter format.

Feel free to contact any of the leadership team to answer any questions or to provide new ideas and suggestions. Again, please join us! 

Racial Equity Discussion Group
Wednesday, July 7, 2021 at 7:00 pm

Our first topic for discussion will be centered on the exploration of our earliest personal consciousness about race. These links will help us to think about our past, spur our memories and provide us with a beginning of the language of our discussion. We are not suggesting that the articles, videos and podcasts are the best of the best as there is an amazing amount of content from which to choose. We chose these as a place to begin the conversation.

Each issue of Equality will be curated by different members of our steering committee. The list of materials for this first issue was created by Joel Ivers and me, Jan Fine.

Read:

White Anti-Racism Affinity Groups by Justin C. Cohen
The Social Construction of Race by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege by Pem Davidson Buck

Watch:

White Like Me
Changing the Narrative

Listen:

How Race Was Made

Civil Rights Journey 2020 with Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

Join Temple Beth El as we return to the Deep South for our second Civil Rights Journey. As a community we have been exploring how race and racial inequity have influenced our nation, and this is an eye-opening experience on our history and the unique role that Americans Jews can and do play.

Trip highlights include the Martin Luther King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the National Human and Civil Rights Museum, the Equal Justice Initiative, Freedom Park and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The trip begins in Atlanta on Saturday evening, February 26, 2022 and concludes with time to return home on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

Cost will be $1,000-$1,250 per person, double occupancy, plus airfare, depending on the number of participants.

Contact Rabbi Greg Weisman at [email protected] or 561-391-8900 with any questions.

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