The following is a statement by Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D, president of Reconstructing Judaism, and Seth Rosen, chair of the Board of Governors.
Reconstructing Judaism is fully committed to building an anti-racist Jewish community. We state firmly and unequivocally that Black Lives Matter, and that working tirelessly to demonstrate that Black Lives Matter is a Jewish value.
We are deeply grateful to Not Free to Desist for the direction offered to Jewish organizations, and for so clearly challenging us to translate statements and intentions into meaningful and transformative action. As leaders of Reconstructing Judaism, the central organization of the Reconstructionist movement, we commit ourselves to the Community Obligations articulated by Not Free to Desist. We have signed on to the open letter as individuals, as have the members of the senior staff of Reconstructing Judaism. We will share the Community Obligations with our board, our staff, our faculty, our students and our affiliated communities as part of our ongoing efforts to make racial justice a pillar of our movement.
While we have long-standing organizational racial justice commitments, we recognize the importance of developing more specific benchmarks for racial equity, diversity, and inclusion within our organization and, by extension, our movement. We appreciate that benchmarks create accountability and we are committed to holding Reconstructing Judaism accountable in our pursuit of racial justice and equity. We are already hard at work in most of the areas raised in the Not Free to Desist obligations. We are refraining from signing on organizationally at this time because we cannot in good faith assure that we will meet all of these specific benchmarks in the next three years.
The obligations set out by Not Free to Desist will be the starting point for our conversations as we continue the work of generating new racial justice benchmarks that are both ambitious and achievable within the mission and programs of Reconstructing Judaism. The generation of new benchmarks for Reconstructing Judaism will be led by Jews of Color in our movement so that we can make the goals meaningful for us as an organization and meaningful for Reconstructionist communities. Specifically, we will work with the movement-wide Tikkun Olam Commission, which is sponsored jointly with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and which, in January 2020, adopted racial justice as its primary focus, and with our emerging Jews of Color and Allies Advisory Board, which is in formation. We will follow their lead in governance and planning discussions and in funding commitments. We look forward to reporting on these benchmarks and, more to the point, on our progress toward fulfilling them and creating a world and a Jewish community that is more full of justice and equity and love.
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D.