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Reparations

The Tikkun Olam Commission has approved a draft resolution in support of reparations to be considered by the entire Reconstructionist Movement.

You may already be asking the classic talmudic question, mai reparations? What do you mean by reparations?  To which we offer the talmudic response, ta sh’ma: Come and learn with us. 

Reparations can mean many things. It is policy, theology, a moral obligation, history, and a demand for truth and reconciliation. The National African-American Commission on Reparations (NAACR) defines reparations as, “a process of repairing, healing and restoring a people injured because of their group identity and in violation of their fundamental human rights.” Ta-Nehisi Coates understands reparations as an ethical orientation — “the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences.” There is no Hebrew term that fully encompasses the range of meanings that are associated with the English word, reparations. Is it both teshuvah — the Jewish process of public accountability, apology, mending, and returning to right relationship, and tzedek — the ethical demands of material and legal justice. 

We are offering two parallel pathways for your community to take an initial dive into this sea of Torah:

1. Reparations through a Reconstructionist Lens

An asynchronous adaptation of the recorded sessions from our movement-wide Day of Learning on Reparations, developed by RRC Racial Justice Rabbinic Intern, Alana Krivo-Kaufman. This innovative approach uses ritual, discussion, text study, and personal reflection to guide a group of students in deeply engaging with the amazing Torah shared during our day of learning.

Session 1: Sitting at the Welcome Table: A Conversation on Reparations with Lazora Jordan, LMSW & Co-Teacher

What would it mean for government institutions in the United States to give out reparations? Where does the call for reparations to African Americans come from? How can a Jewish theology of collective accountability guide us in our exploration? This session explores these questions and more. Lazora Jordan is the Vice-Chair of Reconstructing Judaism’s Jews of Color and Allies Advisory Group, serves on the Tikkun Olam Commission, and is a licensed social worker and anti-racist educator.


Sitting at the Welcome Table: A Conversation on Reparations from Reconstructing Judaism on Vimeo.

 

Session 2:  Teshuvah on Stolen Land with Eric Greene, Sarah Waisvisz, and Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg

This session presents a conversation about how Jewish tradition can help guide us in understanding the obligations and impacts of living on indigenous land in North America/Turtle Island, and what reparations might look like. Eric Greene is a Los Angeles-based writer, civil rights activist and long-time organizer in national and local Jews of Color and interfaith communities. Sarah Waisvisz is a writer, dramaturge, multi-disciplinary performer and academic as well as a member of Ottawa’s Or Haneshamah Reconstructionist community. Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg is an organizer and educator and author of, “An Introduction to Trauma, Healing and Resilience for Rabbis, Jewish Educators and Organizers”, published by Reconstructing Judaism.


Teshuvah on Stolen Land from Reconstructing Judaism on Vimeo.

 

Session 3: The Torah’s Case for Reparations with Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein

The biblical narrative of the Exodus from slavery understands the reparations taken by the Israelites to be an essential part of our redemption from servitude. This session presents a Jewish argument for supporting reparations for descendants of slaves in the United States, based on the Jewish archetype of liberation. Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein is Avodah’s National Educator.

DoL Reparations – The Torah’s Case for Reparations from Reconstructing Judaism on Vimeo.

 

2. The Stolen Beam Series: A Study of Reparations for Descendants of Enslaved Africans in the U.S. 

Written and compiled by the reparations committee of the racial justice initiative of the Jewish Community of Amherst, Massachusetts, we are delighted to share this excellent five-part study series that curates stimulating articles and videos by contemporary thinkers and guides discussion about moral values and racism within various historical contexts.

 

Additional Resources:

 

Reparations in Pursuit of Repairing the World, digital painting printed on matte metal panel by Ayeola Omolara Kaplan

Commissioned Artwork

Reconstructing Judaism recently commissioned two black Jewish artists from within our circles, Ayeola Omomara Kaplan, and Marjorie Salvodon, to respond to the Movement Wide Day of Learning on Reparations (link) through a piece of visual art.

The Reconstructionist Network