The following commitments were drafted by the Jews of Color and Allies Advisory Group and approved by the Board of Governors of Reconstructing Judaism on June 13, 2021
During the last year, the United States has grappled with the racism that has plagued this nation for centuries and caused unimaginable suﬀering to Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (“BIPOC people”). The legacy of American slavery, Jim Crow and other racist laws and policies can still be seen and felt today. Racism corrupts practically all aspects of our society, including education, access to jobs and health care, housing, voting and economic advancement.
We have witnessed the horror, through phone video and other undeniable evidence, of the police and other state actors as well as ordinary citizens cravenly murdering, beating, harassing and abusing BIPOC people without many, if any, consequences. We have seen the hyper-surveillance and the double-standard constantly suffered by BIPOC people. We have also reflected upon the systemic and institutional racism that operates insidiously, without video or other evidence of clear bias, to exclude BIPOC people and other racially marginalized people.
Reconstructing Judaism wants to be part of the repair, dialogue, fellowship and relationship with BIPOC Jews and communities of color that are essential to a more just future. As Jews, we have the obligation to stand against injustice and also to reflect upon our own relationship to American racism.
Fighting against racism, within and without our communities, is a priority for Reconstructing Judaism and is a natural extension of our Jewish values. The Torah’s very first and most central description of human beings is that we are created b’tzelem Elohim – equally and uniquely in the image of Gd. This theology was radical in its time and remains radical today, despite the profound truth and simplicity of this claim. Black Lives Matter. The lives of our BIPOC neighbors and fellow Jews of Color matter. It is our obligation to do the holy work of racial justice so that the full humanity of all people within the inﬂuence of our communities may ﬂourish and be fully honored.
Jewish communities are not exempt from having benefited from systemic racism or from racial bias. We have the obligation to build the Jewish communities that we want to live in. As Jews and Reconstructionists, we cannot act in a manner that creates barriers to inclusion, and if we have done so out of ignorance or malice or even indiﬀerence we have a moral and religious obligation not just to remove those barriers, but to build pathways that lead to inclusion, empowerment and leadership of BIPOC Jews within the Reconstructionist Movement and for BIPOC people within our society at large.
In looking at ourselves critically, we want to both acknowledge the presence and contributions of Jews of Color over time and to begin to remedy their relative omission from our histories, rituals, cultural expressions and concerns. BIPOC Jews should be part of our leadership and our board, our staff, our rabbis and rabbinical students, our lay leaders and congregants. They should be welcomed and supported within Reconstructing Judaism and every one of our Reconstructionist communities. The peoplehood and civilization that we, as Reconstructionists, so value has never been and is not now homogenous. We want to acknowledge and embrace the full, beautiful expanse of the Jewish people. We understand that for real inclusion and evolution to happen it is not sufficient that we engage in symbolic action.
In that regard, we have made the following commitments to be accomplished within the course of the next five years: