ANTI-RACISM RESOURCES FOR JEWISH PARENTS

Compiled for Ohr Kodesh Congregation, 6/3/2020

Background

The intention of this document is to serve as a guidebook for parents seeking to frame family antiracism work within Jewish text and values. Furthermore, it is recommended that all adults working through this resource with their families are also actively engaged in an adult-only community of practice, with adult text and discussion, independent of the discussions had with children.

We recommend creating a SURJ Reading Group or other program in conjunction with this

Context

This document was initially started during the COVID-19 Pandemic during the Spring of 2020. With that in mind, many of the activities were created with the goal of being completely online/conducted within family units/homes.

Audience

This curriculum is being developed with many age groups in mind, hopefully as children grow and mature, parents and communities can return to the resources in this document and deepen the conversations with their children, including new resources.

Jewish Framing - Classical Texts

  • Yalkut Shim’oni on Genesis 1:13
    God gathered the dust [of the first human] from the four corners of the world - red, black, white and green. Red is the blood, black is the innards and green for the body. Why from the four corners of the earth? So that if one comes from the east to the west and arrives at the end of his life as he nears departing from the world, it will not be said to him, "This land is not the dust of your body, it's of mine. Go back to where you were created." Rather, every place that a person walks, from there she was created and from there she will return."

  • Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a
    “The Mishna cites another
     reason the first human was created alone: And this was done due to the importance of maintaining peace among people, so that one person will not say to another: My father, i.e., progenitor, is greater than your father. And it was also so that the heretics who believe in multiple gods will not say: There are many authorities in Heaven, and each created a different person.”
  • Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 54b
    Anyone who had the capability to effectively protest the sinful conduct of the members of his household and did not protest, he himself is apprehended for the sins of the members of his household and punished. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the people of his town, and he fails to do so, he is apprehended for the sins of the people of his town. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the whole world, and he fails to do so, he is apprehended for the sins of the whole world.”
  • Tractate Derekh Eretz Zuta, Section on Peace 2 

There it was taught: Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says that the world stands on three things: On justice, on truth, and on peace. Rabbi Muna said: Those three are really one thing! If justice is served, truth is served, and peace will be made. [The proof is that] all three are mentioned in one verse, where it is written, "You shall judge truth and a judgment of peace in your dwellings." (Zach 8:16). In any place that there is peace, there will be justice.

Intersectionality: Articles and Posts by Jews of Color

I am experiencing more white Jews sending me private messages. A lot of them are saying “What can we do?” and in time I hope we can advance our collective knowledge and education enough so it can become more of “I’ve been proactively learning from people of color and here is what I am doing,” or “These are the things I’m considering. I’m mostly leaning towards this one, does that sound like it’s in alignment with your vision?”

That said, it’s a step forward and it’s good, but it’s asking more of us as Jews of color to not only figure out how to maintain our jobs and do additional leadership and activism in this moment, but then also being asked to support and manage white Jews’ work during a time in which many of us are traumatized and heartbroken. But this is progress, and I would rather people reach out, however they best know how, than apathy and not doing anything or paralysis from fear.” (April Baskin)

“Some phrases we appreciate hearing:

  • I don’t understand what you are going through, but I stand with you.
  • I am reserving space to listen to you.
  • How can I support you and how can I support my community?

Some phrases that we don’t appreciate:

  • I feel your pain. (Chances are, you definitely don’t.)
  • Are you okay? (Our people are bleeding in the streets, so no.)” (Jones)

I have become fascinated with the appropriation of foundational images and texts from Judaism that have become integral to African-American religious expression. How can I begin to convey the resonance of phrases like “My Rock, in whom there is no flaw” (Psalm 92) when that euphonious phrase falls upon the African-American religious heart and mind, held there as surely as “light is stored up for the righteous”? The cultural or artistic use of music that is tied to a particular historical moment can be moving in its ability to transcend space and time. [...]

Let me clarify: The meaning of these traditional African-American texts to me as a Jew—to me, and not necessarily to you, to paraphrase the Haggadah. I haven’t necessarily lost all of the bewilderment I felt hearing “Go Down, Moses” at my first Seder. Some additional questions I might add to a Seder would be: Is it strange that some Jews have decided to use African-American religious expression in the privacy of their own domestic rituals to tell their own story? Why is it that “Are you Jewish?” and “How are you Jewish?” have oftentimes been the first things that I hear from Jews I meet for the first time? If I walk into a Seder and find Jews singing negro spirituals, may I ask, “Are you black?” and “How are you black?”

Statements from Jewish Clergy & Organizations

Resources for Communities

Lesson Plans & Teaching Guides

  • Young Children (& up)

Top 10 race conscious things to say:

Explicit proactive language around race

“In response to a child looking at Doc McStuffins and Disney princess advertising: “Doc McStuffins has brown skin and these girls all have pale skin or White skin. But you’re right about two things. These girls do look similar to one another. And there should be girls with brown skin on this box, too.”

Explaining racism, Multi-Racial families, Children’s Books, Black Lives Matter and White Privilege,Inspiring activism, Holidays, Specific topic issues.

Police Violence

In response to “But why would a police officer (shoot and kill a boy) if the boy didn’t even have a gun?” “Well, because Black and brown people have been treated unfairly for a long time in this country, and they still are. And if that boy looked like you (White), this probably wouldn’t have happened.”

Jillian has three children and is a child development expert working at First Up: Champions for Early Childhood Education. She provides training for preschool teachers about racial justice and recognizing their core values and biases.

  • Middle School (& up)
  • Teens (& up)

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Historical Framing

  • Readings from:
  • Langston Hughes
  • W.E.B. DuBois
  • Maya Angelou
  • bell hooks
  • Ibram X. Kendi
  • Rebecca Walker


DISCUSSION GUIDE

Prepared by Cantor Hinda Labovitz for Ohr Kodesh Congregation, 6/4/20

Overview / Leader’s Guide:

Here's are the three the most important things I want you to know about this session:

  • There are several people of color who have RSVPed to attend, both our members/ABRS student families and our educators, as well as a couple I do not know. We need to acknowledge them and make space for them to speak their experience and their Truth.  I spoke with some yesterday and invited them to speak *if* they want to. All indicated they did not specifically, but let's please make sure to give them priority if they do volunteer to speak from their experience.
  • Please don't position the discussion as "What can the Jewish Community do for the Black community?" - This implies that Black people (and other People of Color) are not part of the Jewish community, which is simply false. We need to make sure that our members and constituents who live at this intersection of identity feel seen, acknowledged, included, and supported.
  • Please take note if there are any resources raised during the session that should be included in this document, or if there are comments which necessitate pastoral/leadership follow-up.

And one more thing: Some students/parents will be more verbal, some shier about asking questions or making comments. Whenever you think a question/discussion has come to a close, wait another beat or two to see if a straggler comes up with a question or comment who needed the extra minute to gain the courage.

Logistics:

  • Target Audience: Families with children of all ages; Intergenerational
  • Setting: Facilitated on Zoom (during COVID-19 Isolation Period), using Breakout Rooms feature        
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • You’ll need THIS DOCUMENT to share during the session, and you’ll want to share the link to it so folks can see it as “View Only.” Here’s that link:

Pre-Session Set-Up:

For maximal security, Zoom Host should:

  1. Set the meeting to record.
  2. Make sure the Waiting Room is enabled.
  3. Turn OFF “Allow Participants to Unmute themselves”
  4. Make sure that “Share Screen” is set to HOST ONLY.

Execution:

  1. Welcome and Introductions. (:00-:05)
  1. Please introduce all those who are assisting in facilitating the conversation, and their roles in our institution.
  2. I think it’s important to include the disclaimer below:

We know that there are people in attendance who are People of Color, or who have immediate family members and children who are. We want to acknowledge that the leadership on this call are not in that category. Cantor Labovitz spoke with some of those who are on this call who indicated they did not want to speak, and to you we want to say: please feel that you can offer a correction or experience to add to our conversation the floor is yours. We certainly do not presume to speak for the experience of People of Color, and want to emphasize the importance of this time of listening to their voices where available.

Let’s also all agree that this is a safe space. We’re not all going to say the right thing always, and we want to work together to create a positive environment in which asking each other questions, even hard questions, feels safe and productive. Let’s not buy into the illusion of “colorblindness,”  but use this time to learn more, to understand, and to celebrate the differences between us.

  1. Jewish Framing (:05-:15):

Frame the conversation with two texts: one traditional and one current.

  1. Choose one of the Classical Jewish choices above, linked here. (whatever resonates for the facilitator)
  2. Choose one of the voices of Jewish People of Color, linked here. Feel free to reflect on one of the pull-quotes that are boxed there.

  1. Breakout Sessions (:15-:40)

If possible, I suggest breaking people by demographics. You can see who signed up on the spreadsheet I distributed in advance, so in the background during the introduction the host should be working with the breakout room module to allocate people into the appropriate rooms as they come in.

Each breakout room will be different because of the diversity of those on the call. I suggest using the following questions as a guide, some of which may be more easily aimed at different ages of students.

These breakout rooms are an opportunity to model how to talk to kids about these issues. All the questions below are directed at the students, but invite the parents into the conversation as well.

  1. (:15-20) Assessment Question, for all students: Have you heard the name “George Floyd”? What do you know about his story?

    NB. This will help you assess a baseline of what your students know, and will also give you an opportunity to level the playing-field. Strongly suggest that you don’t add details to the maximum student’s understanding in your breakout room.

You might even say this as an aside to parents, and instruct as follows: In traumatic situations, it’s best to glean what your child knows, answer their questions, but don’t add more information. HOWEVER, you don’t want to avoid hard topics, and so you can start a discussion with your children about racial justice.

  1. (:20-:45) For younger children (3rd grade and younger): Link over to THIS GUIDE to starting a conversation about racial diversity and discrimination.
  2. For older children (4th grade and older), proceed with any of the following:
  1. (:20-:24) What experience do you have in talking about racial diversity?
  2. (:24-:36) Talk about the ways in which current events feel hard for our friends who are People of Color (If anyone is in your group, see if they want to contribute. CF Voices of People of Color, above, particularly April Baskin’s comment). How are they are hard for ourselves?
  1. In what ways can we support our friends who are People of Color?
  1. At this juncture, you might want to orient participants to Ring Theory. (Basically, if there’s a traumatic event, support inward toward the nexus, but “vent” outward toward people who are more peripheral.)
  1. (:36-:40) What questions do we have about the experience of People of Color in this country?
  2. (:40-:45) How do we act as allies? In what ways can we be helpful?
  1. (I suggest making sure some of the following ideas come up: Making sure they know we care -- phone calls, meals, etc., participating visibly in protests/actions that support, LISTENING rather than jumping to action.)

  1. Orientation to Further Resources (:40-:50)

Have the host share this document on screen and orient participants to the variety of sections and resources here. Invite them to email Cantor Labovitz (cantorlabovitz@ohrkodesh.org) if they find others which are helpful and should be added to this document.

  1. Wrap-Up (:50-1:00)

In general, I would want to do a participatory wrap-up session. I don’t think that’ll be possible here because of the size of the crowd. I’d ask each facilitator to give some reflections on their group or to delegate to one person in each of his/her own group.

If someone who is a Person of Color wants to offer any thoughts/reflections, now is a great time to call on them -- but please don’t put them on the spot. You may want to private-message people  you know might want to say something and invite them to do so, if they want to.

Please remind people that as we all move about in this world and struggle with those ideas that are around us, the clergy and staff of OKC are here for members of our community who need to talk.