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“History repeats itself.”
This statement is often uttered despondently, conjuring up repeated human suffering caused by tragic or misguided events, wars, and choices. But perhaps it also should inspire us.
As America commemorates Black History Month, we are called on both to remember the enslavement that brought Africans to this country and to celebrate the generations of activists who have fought – and continue to fight – for racial justice.
Black leaders have fought for the right to vote, for desegregation, and for an end to mass incarceration – each effort strengthened by the history that proves it can succeed. Jewish leaders have participated as allies in many of these efforts; fighting for racial justice is something we Jews do repeatedly.
Despite these efforts, racial justice eludes us.
He then rightly asked, “How does all of this impact our congregation?”
His answer reminds us that “[w]e are not talking about points of data on a page. We are talking about human lives. These are our sisters and our brothers, and we all live under the same God.”
Indeed, we cannot ignore this inequality, so how is the Reform Movement pursuing racial justice?
In 2015, we launched the Reform Movement’s racial justice campaign, a joint effort of the URJ’s Just Congregations and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism with significant leadership from the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). The campaign aims to increase education about racial diversity and injustice in the United States and within Reform Jewish congregations, to foster stronger community relationships across lines of race, and to promote advocacy on behalf of policies that mitigate racial inequality.
Designed around the “three Rs” of Reflect, Relate, Reform, this is the framework congregations can use to focus their efforts to dismantle structural racism:
The Reform Movement is honoring Black History Month by lifting up stories of suffering, activism, and triumphs within America’s black community, and by authoring a new chapter in the story of the Jewish community’s alliance with people of color in campaigns for racial justice.