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In the Face of Inequality and Injustice: What Are JCCs Doing?

by Jane E. Herman

Following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis at the end of May, protesters filled America’s streets, demanding racial equality and justice. As the “Jewish town square” in many communities, JCCs have been involved in this civil rights moment.

Whether they’re one-time programs or longer, ongoing events, the entries in this round-up from our JCCs offer opportunities to listen to others’ stories, learn about and reflect on systemic racial injustice and inequality, and strive to be part of a much-needed and long overdue solution.

  1. At the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos, California, a multi-pronged approach to address the issues includes staff conversations around enacting an antiracism agenda; promoting resources and action items to members and the community at large; developing an anti-bias task force; and stewarding the community’s interfaith and cross-cultural connections.
  2. In New York City, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan curated a list of resources to help people deepen their understanding of racism and begin to take action against it. Resources include books and articles, movies and podcasts, and more.
  3. “Understanding White Privilege and Anti-Racism,” a workshop offered by the Edlavitch DCJCC in Washington, D.C., gave participants an opportunity to examine and question whiteness as a first step in developing an understanding of what an active anti-racist practice can be.
  4. JCC Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, presented “They Ain’t Ready for Me,” a timely documentary about Chicagoan, Tamar Manasseh, a Black, rabbinical student who is combating gun violence on the south side of Chicago. The film explores the complex identity and motivations of this Jewish and Black young woman, and how her intersecting identities offer a road map to address one of America’s most urgent crises.
  5. The Louis S. Wolk JCC of Greater Rochester in Rochester, New York, has compiled an extensive list of anti-racism resources on its website, including books, articles, blog posts, films, television shows, podcasts, and educational materials.
  6. At the JCC of San Francisco, more than a year before George Floyd’s death, “Confronting Implicit Bias” was on the program calendar. The live, in-person event in April 2019 featured Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt, a Stanford University social psychologist and a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant,” who studies the consequences of the psychological association between race and crime. Also addressing the crowd was San Francisco Police Chief William “Bill” Scott.
  7. In Minneapolis, the Sabes JCC offered a two-part program, “Talking to Kids About Racism,” to help adults fulfill their responsibility to teach children about racism. The series provided parents and other adults with tools to guide these important conversations with the children in their lives.
  8. “Fighting Hate From Home: Fighting Racism as a Multiracial Jewish Community,” a program of the Boulder JCC in Boulder, Colorado, offered a panel of experts who spoke about the role of Jewish leaders, institutions, and communities in serving and supporting our entire multiracial community. Speakers included Ilana Kaufman, executive director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative; Gamal Palmer, Schusterman Fellow 2019; Ginna Green, political consultant and strategist; and ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. In a separate program, Rachel and Ariel Amaru used poetry to prompt small group discussions about racism in America and actions individuals can take to support racial justice.
  9. The United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia, organized a “Drive Thru for Justice,” offering people a drive-thru opportunity to pick up a candle to light at home as a demonstration of their commitment to racial justice and equality.

Want to have your JCC’s anti-racism activity or event added to this round-up? Email the author and tell us how your JCC community is helping to combat racism and racial inequality and injustice.

Jane E. Herman is the senior writer at JCC Association of North America. Email her at [email protected].


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