The Reconstructionist movement has helped define the vanguard of social justice in the Jewish community, advancing causes from equality for women and the LGBT community, to interfaith dialogue. How can a movement with distinctive yet limited resources continue to be most effective as an agent of change? Our Tikkun Olam Commission determined that the best strategy is to concentrate on a single area of social justice for a few years at a time. The current commission has decided to focus on racial justice. They will develop resources and programs, in partnership with all appropriate stakeholders, to support movement-wide engagement on the issue of racial justice and the impact of racist attitudes and policies on non-white populations. This work will include, but not be limited to, consideration of the resultant disproportionate impact of climate change and immigration policy on communities of color.
Toward that end, the TOC will work to create and support opportunities related to racial justice that will allow for constructive and meaningful participation across the movement which:
- Leads to a deeper understanding of the issues, their impact, and our moral obligation as Reconstructionist Jews to respond to injustice.
- Increases engagement among and collaboration between Reconstructionist clergy, affiliated communities and their members;
- Amplifies efforts to influence public opinion and decision-makers on these issues;
- Raises the public profile of the Reconstructionist movement as a voice for justice and an ally to communities of color; and
- Makes a positive impact on those directly affected by racism.
Drawing on the work of the previous Tikkun Olam Commission (constituted after the merger of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and disbanded in 2017 to make way for the creation of joint commission with the RRA), consideration was given to the following criteria in choosing our area(s) of concentration:
- Jewish wisdom and values are relevant, but currently are not being applied.
- Jewish resources are not currently over-invested.
- There is national and/or international relevance.
- There is particular relevance for Jews.
- The content is broad enough to warrant a multilevel strategy, including direct service, advocacy and education.
- Diverse organizations—including congregations, Hillels and Jewish community centers—can contribute to the effort.
- Little victories can be won along the way, and change is attainable in the long run.
- A grassroots effort can make an impact.
- Activism can help define and raise the profile of the movement.
- The problems are timely — even urgent — and have evoked popular concern.
- The Reconstructionist movement has a distinctive contribution to make.
- We can draw other faith groups into the effort, building relationships.
- A significant number of our affiliates have expressed interest and/or experience in workaround this area of focus.
The Commission is in the process of developing resource materials that congregations, Hillels and other Jewish community groups can use in their work for racial justice. In the meantime, we suggest folks look to the racial justice resources from the Human Rights Shabbat program organized by our friends at T’ruah and co-sponsored by Reconstructing Judaism as a great place to begin one’s own exploration of what racial justice work might look like in your community.
We have already created a Jews of Colors and Allies Advisory Group, whose mandate can be found here.
We continue to maintain other tikkun olam alliances, and the Commission evaluates new possibilities on an ongoing basis.