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Racial Equity Newsletter Issue 4:
Woke Racism

Welcome to the fourth issue of Temple Beth El's Racial Equity Newsletter, Equality!

As we shared in the first issue, every other month we will share articles, podcasts, videos and other content that is informed by and contributes to the conversation around racial equity. Each issue will be followed by a discussion session. The discussion session for this issue will be on February 24 at 7:00 pm. CLICK HERE to register. Below you will also find more information about the material for the next discussion group and news of coming events in our community and opportunities for further learning.

Rabbi Greg Weisman, Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
Letter from Rabbi Greg Weisman
In a famous Talmudic episode, the students of Beit Hillel and the students of Beit Shammai, known to disagree about most questions of precedent and law, were engaged in an especially passionate debate. To settle the matter, a bat kol, a Divine Voice, rang forth from the heavens to declare that “both these and those are the words of the living God” (Eruvin 13b), essentially telling both sides that they were right.

From this passage we learn that when deep thinking people engage in debate, there is most often wisdom and insight in both sides of the discussion. No perspective, no ideology has an monopoly on the truth; there are truths in the insights of both sides of most debates.
 
It is in this spirit that this month we examine a critique of many anti-racist teachers and teachings brought forth by John McWhorter, a linguist on faculty at Columbia University. In his new book Woke Racism, he questions some of the underlying presumptions of anti-racism, while recognizing that issues of race and structural racism are prevalent in our society. Whether you are able to read his book, or glean his argument from the various interviews he has given or articles that have been written about it, we hope you will join our February 24, 2022 Discussion group, where we will discuss his arguments, and how they interact with those who advance the anti-racist theory.
 
As we discuss, we will keep in mind that the passage from the Talmud continues: “However, the halakha [legal precedent] is in accordance with the opinion of Beit Hillel.” Why, the Talmud asks. “The reason is that they were agreeable and forbearing, showing restraint when affronted, and when they taught the halakha they would teach both their own statements and the statements of Beit Shammai. Moreover, when they formulated their teachings and cited a dispute, they prioritized the statements of Beit Shammai to their own statements, in deference to Beit Shammai.”
The Talmud implores us, when we evaluate our own arguments and those of our opponent, to give the benefit of the doubt to their wisdom and insight, and to challenge ourselves to hear and understand their argument in an agreeable, open-minded way.
We should take care to include their insights into our own conclusion, and in so doing we will sharpen our own understanding of the issue at hand.
 
Equality Issue 4: January 26, 2022
Welcome Message from Jan Fine, editor of this issue of Equality

Woke Racism, How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, by John McWhorter is another look at the issues of racism from a wholly different perspective than we have so far viewed. The author of Woke Racism, John McWhorter, is first and foremost a linguist. As a teacher of Linguistics, American Studies and Music History at Columbia University he speaks to the reader with terminologies that include Woke Racism, Third Wave Antiracism, The Catechism of Contradictions, The Elect, and more, in an attempt to explain his hypothesis of a New Religion and how it has betrayed Black America. So much of our education about racial justice is in the semantics and delivery so I found it fitting that a linguist and professor of history would take on concepts that challenge our perceptions in a way that pushes us to see differently and learn more.

Racial Equity Discussion Group
Thursday, February 24, 2022 at 7:00 pm
In the upcoming discussion of Woke Racism, How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, we will be presenting our topic with a series of questions to our Equality team as a panel and then opening up the floor to discussion among all participants. 
 
Some of the questions we will examine may include:
  • What is Woke?
  • How does the author explain the concept of a New Religion?
  • Why is this important?
  • Does McWhorter’s view differ from the examinations of White Fragility, Anti-Racism, Affirmative Action and other themes that we have previously discussed? How? and Why?
 
We look forward to having you join us.  
 
To prepare for the Feb. 24 discussion, we encourage you to explore these resources:
 
To Read:
To Listen:
To Watch:

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.
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