Black Lives Matter.
We join a growing chorus of individuals, organizations, and institutions proclaiming this statement to affirm the dignity of Black lives and call for an end to structural racism. More importantly, while we know that a statement is powerful, we are eager to join others in committing to action. As a primarily white and Ashkenazi organization, we’ve spent time over the past several weeks reflecting on how we are already showing up in this fight, and how much more work we urgently need to do.
We are inspired by the powerful “Not Free to Desist” letter co-authored by Lindsey Newman, Aaron Samuels, and Avodah alumna Rachel Sumekh, which calls on Jewish organizations to share bold commitments to racial justice and the inclusion of Jews of Color. We applaud their vision and proudly sign on to their letter. We know it will be hard work for us to achieve some of the letter’s specific targets, and, in full transparency, we’re not completely certain we can meet them all. However, we commit to taking the time to study the proposed metrics and determine how we can fulfill the Community Obligations outlined by the authors, and additional metrics to achieve those ends.
Since 2016, Avodah has had a Racial Justice Task Force composed of staff, board members, and alumni. This group has helped us make strong steps as an anti-racist organization. We have required staff to attend anti-racism training, devoted dedicated resources to recruiting more Jews of Color to our programs, created an Advisory Council of JOCSM (Jews of Color Sephardi Mizrahi) Alumni, worked to diversify our board, and more. We know that this is just the beginning, and that we have much more to do. We also know that we have made missteps throughout this process, and we are seeking to listen and act on the feedback shared by our participants, alumni, and partners who are Jews of Color. You can read more about Avodah’s work on Racial Justice initiatives from the past several years here.
Over the coming weeks, we will ask our Racial Justice Task Force to help Avodah determine how we can more fully infuse anti-racism work into our organizational structures. We will also debut a guide that shares some of the learning that we have gained over the past few years, which we hope can serve as a resource to other Jewish organizations looking to strengthen or jumpstart this work. We call on our fellow Jewish organizations, foundations, and federations to join us in our commitment to dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in America and in our beloved community. We look forward to listening, learning, and growing as we together build a stronger, more equitable, and more inclusive Jewish community.