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Creating Radically Welcoming Communities

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On June 30, 2021, Rabbi Sandra Lawson (she/her) led a racial justice workshop called Creating Radically Welcoming Communities. This workshop was part of a series of racial justice workshops called Looking within for Communical Change, organized and produced by Philadelphia’s Center City Kehillah. Reconstructing Judaism proudly co-sponsored Rabbi Lawson’s workshop with the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia and the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia. Rabbi Lawson is director of racial diversity, equity and inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism.

In this workshop, Rabbi Lawson addresses the question, “What do our Jewish texts and values say about welcoming others into our communities?” In the workshop, Rabbi Lawson refers to a source sheet, which you can find here

Please click the photo of Rabbi Lawson below to watch the Workshop. 

Rabbi Lawson works with senior staff, lay leaders, clergy, rabbinical students, and Reconstructionist communities to help Reconstructing Judaism realize its deeply held aspiration of becoming an anti-racist organization and movement. In her role, Lawson is developing a series of anti-racist policies and trainings for the organization and its affiliate members. She also serves as a mentor to rabbinical students.

The 2018 Reconstructionist Rabbinical College graduate is one of the first African American, queer, female rabbis. The thought-leader has consciously sought to alter the perception of what a rabbi — and the rabbinate — looks like. In 2020, the Forward named Lawson to its “Forward 50” proclaiming her a “truth teller.” She is also the founder of Kol Hapanim – All Faces – an inclusive, Jewish community that is relevant, accessible, and rooted in tradition, where all who come are welcomed and diversity is embraced.

Statement on the No Fear Rally

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Although Reconstructing Judaism has not been asked to participate in the No Fear rally, and has therefore had no opportunity to participate in its messaging or planning, we endorse it in principle because we are firmly opposed to antisemitism and, in our efforts to foster engaged and substantive Jewish life and in our tikkun olam and public square work, we act continuously to counter it.  We believe that antisemitism is a scourge that must be forcefully denounced. We also understand clearly the importance of forming coalitions to fight against hatred and for other causes, and that coalition work can mean standing and working side by side with individuals and organizations with whom we disagree, sometimes vehemently.

However, we are not signing on as a formal co-sponsor because of many factors, including the rally’s deeply partisan origins; a non-transparent process around organization and speakers; the short time frame that worked against collaboration around the rally’s content and meaningful coalition building; the way some sponsors frame antisemitism; the implication that non-Zionists cannot have a voice in decrying antisemitism; a resistance to linking Jewish oppression with other equally unacceptable forms of hatred; and an unclear path for action. On the eve of the rally, we strongly urge the statement of inclusion that has been published on the rally’s web site be respected and enforced, since it provides a mechanism for the kind of broad unity that the main organizers profess to desire. Reconstructing Judaism will continue to offer our understandings of antisemitism in a manner that invites complexity, nuance and deliberation and that hopefully inspires transformative action and achieves meaningful impact. Most importantly, we will double down on our commitment to strengthening America’s democratic institutions, since a robust democracy that protects minority rights and promotes pluralism is the strongest protection against antisemitism and other forms of hate.

Reconstructing Judaism Adopts Commitments on Racial Justice

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The Reconstructionist movement’s Jews of Color and Allies Advisory Group recently made a set of recommendations about how to racially diversify and advance anti-racism in the Reconstructionist movement, including at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Camp Havaya, and how to center and celebrate the voices and experiences of BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) in the Reconstructionist movement. These recommendations were overwhelmingly approved by our board of governors at their June 13, 2021 meeting. Click here to read the commitments.

National Jewish Organizational Letter to Congress in Support of AAPI Communities

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism joined a wide-ranging group of Jewish communal organizations in sending a letter to Congressional leadership urging support of and solidarity with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Statement Condemning Atlanta Attack

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Reconstructing Judaism and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association logos

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association mourn the devastating loss of life Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia. Our hearts are filled with sorrow as we learn of the targeting of Asian American women. We stand with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of our Jewish community and with the broader AAPI community in grief and solidarity for those lost: Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, and Paul Andre Michels, along with the slain whose names have not yet been released. We send wishes of refu’ah shlaymah — full and complete healing — to the families of the victims, to all affected by these attacks and to our world.

There has been a staggering increase of hate crimes against Asian Americans since last March, with more than 3,800 cases reported, most of them against women. This has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation across AAPI communities. We recognize that anti-Asian racism is nothing new in this country. We condemn hate of this kind in no uncertain terms, and look forward to a day when all people, of any background, with any color skin, can work, live and pursue meaningful lives in safety and security, and with self-determination.

We raise our voices in prayer and condolence for the victims of this latest mass-shooting: there have been 3,885 shooting deaths in 2021. We also raise them to call for significant investment in examining and dismantling social structures that lead to racialized and gender-based violence. We must push ourselves to address this terrible scourge in ways that would prevent such tragedies. 

As our hearts are broken again and again by the images and stories of unjustifiable loss of innocent life, the words of the psalmist ring bitterly familiar: “ad matai - how long will this go on?! … How long will you feed your people tears as their daily bread, making them drink great measures of tears?” (Psalm 80:4-5).  May all who have died be held in God’s love. May all who mourn be held in God’s infinite compassion and healing light. May all who are wounded be blessed with a speedy healing. And may the One who created us all lead us to be better than this. 

Please take a moment to consider taking some of these action steps from our friends at @NotFreeToDesist: 

  • Reach out to your AAPI friends and family to let them know you love them.
  • Visit NextShark.com for AAPI related news and follow @nextshark @aapiwomenlead and @goldhouseco on social media.
  • Visit racismiscontagious.com for resources to address anti-Asian violence.
  • Follow the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #HateIsAVirus on social media to keep informed
  • Donate to Stop AAPI Hate stopaapihate.org or contribute to some of the many other organizations that work to support, empower, and protect Asian American communities.
  • Sign up for bystander intervention training. Visit the Asian American Federation website for resources created in collaboration with the Center for Anti-Violence that offers methods to safely exit a threatening situation and strategies for individuals to intervene if they see someone targeted at aafederation.org/aaf-safety-resources/

Letter Opposing Confirmation of Anthony Tata

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism joined a coalition of civil rights groups to sign a letter opposing the Senate confirmation of Anthony Tata to a central Pentagon post due to his history of bigoted statements and actions. 

500+ Jewish Organizations and Synagogues say: Black Lives Matter

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among more than 500 Jewish organizations from across the racial and political spectrum; from different streams of Judaism; whose members trace their lineage from countries around the world; speaking with one voice to say that Black Lives Matter.

Jewish And Pro-Israel Organizations Must Not Tolerate The Bigotry Of ZOA’s Morton Klein

Endorsement

 

As progressive pro-Israel organizations and members of the American Jewish community, we are appalled and outraged by the bigotry and hatred expressed and promoted by Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), at this painful and important moment of reckoning for our country. Klein’s latest outbursts and long track record of bigotry should make him unwelcome in any mainstream Jewish communal spaces and should lead to his expulsion from organizational umbrella groups such as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. 

Letter Opposing Racial Profiling of Pregnant People Seeking to Enter U.S.

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among 156 signatories to join a letter from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, calling on Secretary Pompeo to end the US policy targeting pregnant people of color and making it harder for them to travel and visit their families.

Interfaith Open Letter: Stephen Miller Must Resign

Endorsement

 

As a diverse coalition of interfaith partners dedicated to moral and humane immigration policies, we demand the immediate resignation of White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller. We believe that all people deserve to be treated with dignity, regardless of their immigration status. Our varied faith traditions mandate us to welcome the stranger, love each other, and protect the most vulnerable among us.

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