Announcing the 2019 JewV’Nation Cohort: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

August 6, 2019C.E. Harrison and Rachel Hall

The concepts and values of diversity, equity, and inclusion (often abbreviated to simply “DEI”) are central to Judaism. More than just a belief system, DEI includes our communication styles and platforms, the actions we do or do not take, and the policies we uphold, abide by, and change.  If we are truly seeking inclusive Jewish communities,  everything we do must be rooted in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Because this work is vital to the overall health and vibrancy of our communities, our congregations, and our institutions, we understand the importance of training our emerging and experienced Jewish leaders in these practices. In the words of URJ camp counselors Isabella Merritt and Miriam Levy, “[A] true kehilla kedosha (holy community) not only embraces the idea that everyone is unique, but also recognizes that individuality as essential.”

It is with these very words that remind us of the essential value of diversity, that the Union for Reform Judaism is excited to announce the 2019-2020 JewV’Nation Fellowship: The DEI Leadership Cohort, dedicated to promoting and incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion in our Reform Jewish spaces. This new cohort will guide our communities in embracing our diversity as a necessary and essential component to be valued and fostered in all of our spaces.

Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

We already know that our Jewish community is fantastically diverse, and that diversity will to continue to grow in the coming years. Statistics show that an estimated 10 percent of North American Jews identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and in the U.S., at least 1 in 7 Jews identifies as a Jew of Color. Individuals within our community also exist on a spectrum of language, communication styles, age, disability, family structures, and socioeconomic status.

Our communities are not complete until they incorporate the actual, unquestionable, and essential diversity of our people – and we aim to equip this cohort to make measurable strides toward creating vibrant, inclusive Jewish communities.

What the New Cohort Entails

With this cohort, our goal is to improve inclusion practices within our Jewish communities, not to focus solely on meeting a specific membership “quota” but to create communities that accurately reflect the existing and evolving diversity of our people. We must genuinely show and tell people of varying identities that they belong within our community and that their presence is a necessary component toward making our Jewish spaces whole.

Importantly, this fellowship acknowledges our communities’ varying needs and the importance of helping congregations to give people of all backgrounds what they require individually to build community collectively. This focus – on the specifics of underserved communities within our Jewish spaces – will allow us to move further into a place of true Audacious Hospitality.

A New Element: Partnering with Congregations

Unlike previous cohorts, which focused on individual and group project development, our DEI cohort will focus on congregational partnerships. The first three months of the fellowship will be dedicated to intensive training around DEI work, and the following six months will be a combination of training and partnering with congregations.

In this vein, each fellow will be paired with a URJ congregation to begin (or further) its Audacious Hospitality work. In collaboration with URJ staff, DEI fellows will work one on one with congregational leadership to determine the congregation’s current understanding of Audacious Hospitality and DEI, as well as areas for improvement. 

This partnership will also include setting specific goals and proposed action plans to create a more inclusive congregation. Such goals may include, for example: addressing representation on congregational digital platforms (i.e. media that reflects the identities of modern Jews); increasing new visitor attendance; creating a plan to address implicit bias throughout the congregation; shifts in culture; providing more inclusive programming; or bringing in lay leaders from marginalized backgrounds.

Learn More and Apply Now

The JewV’Nation Fellowship has been proudly funded and sustained by grants from the Leichtag Foundation, the Genesis Philanthropy Group, a URJ donor in collaboration with the Jewish Funders Network, the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, and anonymous donors. This specific cohort is made possible by a generous grant by an anonymous donor.

If you’re a Reform Jew who’s passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion, we encourage you to learn more about the JewV’Nation Fellowship. Jews of Color, LGBTQIA+ identifying Jews, Jews with disabilities, and Jews from other marginalized backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

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