Compiled for Ohr Kodesh Congregation, 6/3/2020
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
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.
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.
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.
“Some phrases we appreciate hearing:
Some phrases that we don’t appreciate:
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?”
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.
“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.
Prepared by Cantor Hinda Labovitz for Ohr Kodesh Congregation, 6/4/20
Here's are the three the most important things I want you to know about this session:
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.
For maximal security, Zoom Host should:
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.
Frame the conversation with two texts: one traditional and one current.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they find others which are helpful and should be added to this document.
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.