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5777 Special Focus: Racial Injustice

Taking as its call to action racial injustice in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere, Agudas Achim’s Social Action Committee focused on opportunities to further social justice. Programming in 5777 centered around a Dialogue on Race through Learning, Conversation and Action.


Saturday, December 10, 2016
International Human Rights Day, we had a Shabbat speaker from VOICE for Justice - Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement. Esther Miller gave a stirring introduction to our speaker, Alyssa Glassman. Alyssa discussed her own experiences as a social justice organizer and asked us to turn to our neighbors in the sanctuary to share an experience we’ve had that motivates us to pursue social justice.


Our members engaged in a four-part conversation on Race and Reconciliation from December 2016-March 2017.  Members of AVODAH – the Jewish Service Corps helped facilitate our discussion on topics introduced in brief videos from a series created by the Seattle Times as its staff has struggled with the tragic shootings occurring repeatedly across the country.  These videos have been made available online to the public at the website “Under Our Skin,” which explains that while “Discussions about race, inclusiveness and sensitivity . . . can leave us feeling depleted and wondering whether anything has really changed[,] . . . we believe the personal reflections and stories from the people who participated . . . will inspire all of us to think and talk about these issues in a deeper way.”

On December 18, we discussed “Institutional Racism.” Video and articles introduced how systemic racism in housing systems, educational systems, and criminal justice systems produce outcomes that are significantly worse for people of color. We discussed issues such as arrest rates, access to education, access to jobs, the ability to get loans, and where grocery stores are built. Our facilitators helped us isolate impact from intent–even though racism is not built into the intent of these systems, the effect is still felt.

On January 8, we discussed “White Privilege.”  We read about how after the second World War, Jews, along with other southern and eastern Europeans, gained access and privilege to housing and education that were not afforded to black Americans.  We discussed personal experiences of advantages those of us perceived as white gain and the concept of “intersectionality,” which is that multiple aspects of our identity might each afford us privilege or disadvantage.

On February 26, we talked about the phrase “All Lives Matter” in relationship to the Black Lives Matter movement. AVODAH helped us understand the context of Black Lives Matter as a response to police brutality of people of color. We also discussed various types of racism–old fashioned racism, colorblind racism, institutional racism, racial microagressions, unconscious bias, and aversive racism. We read two articles about the intersection between racism and antisemitism.

On March 5, we talked about the term"racist." The goal of the discussion was to deepen our understanding of racism and racial bias. We also discussed the concepts of  "prejudice," "discrimination," and "unconscious bias" in an attempt to differentiate them from racism. We read an article by Rabbi Avi Killip called "How Studying Talmud Helped Me Understand Racism in America." The article uses the Talmudic categories of damage caused by oxen as a way to understand the intentional and unintentional acts of racism we are responsible for.


Sunday, April  23, 2017
Agudas Achim’s Social Action Committee and the Alfred Street Baptist Church Social Justice Ministry joined together for our first Community Social Justice Seder.

Why is this Seder different from all other Seders? This Seder is an opportunity to celebrate a traditional Passover Seder, focus on contemporary struggles for justice and equality of the present, and discuss how we can support one another for a better future.

Taking as its call to action racial injustice in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere, Agudas Achim’s Social Action Committee focused programming in 5777 on the issue of Racial Justice through Learning, Conversation and Action. We held a series on dialogues on race and reconciliation.  Then we started meeting with the Social Justice Ministry of Alfred Street Baptist Church.  Our goal is to increase understanding and meaningful dialogue between the Black and Jewish communities and identify critical issues of concern to address in partnership.


April 30, 2017
We prepared for our visit by joining Dr. Suzanne E. Smith, AAC member and professor at George Mason University in U.S. History specializing in African American history with a particular interest in exploring how the history of African American entrepreneurship can transform our understanding of African American culture.  Dr. Smith sharee the history, background and logistical overview of the museum as well as helpful hints to get the most out of your visit.

Then 70 congregants visited the museum on April 30.


Racial Justice : Resources and Support
1/8/16: White Privilege Take Home Resources


AVODAH -- the Jewish Service Corps
Alfred Street Baptist Church
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) -- DC and NOVA chapters
Campaign ZERO
Jewish Multiracial Network
Be’chol Lashon
DC Jews for Black Lives (Facebook group)
The Conversation Starts Today -- Talking to White People About Privilege (Facebook group)
Embrace Race (Newsletter and Facebook page)
Raising Race Conscious Children (Facebook page)

Fri, December 1 2023 18 Kislev 5784