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Belonging and Allyship: Racial Justice Initiative

The Belonging & Allyship Project is a big and long term initiative to address white supremacy and racial justice internally within Kehilla, at all levels of our organization and community.

Goals:

      • For Kehilla to be a place where Jews of color experience belonging, and are able to bring their full selves into the community. This includes building our capacity to support the particular experiences of kids and youth of color and to help create space where POC can explore their experience and needs and create relationship with each other.

      • For Kehilla to be a place for white people to do the work they need to do to recognize, understand and actively challenge white supremacy both in U.S culture and within Kehilla.

      • Build the capacity of Kehilla, as an organization, to work in broader coalitions beyond Kehilla, to be allies and accomplices with Black, Indigenous, Mixed Heritage, People of Color-led organizations [BIMPOC], especially following their leadership. All of this is in a context of acknowledging that Kehilla is currently an organization that has a larger White and White-Jewish membership than BIMPOC and Jews-of-Color membership.

    Our Team

    Kehilla’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Team is guided by the BIPOC vision of our community becoming a magnet for Jews of color – continually growing in the practice of racial justice as we work to diminish white supremacy culture. The DEIB Team includes approximately equal numbers of BIPOC and White participants and was formed in 2020 to be community ambassadors for the Arc of Change, a year-long anti-racism training of 80 Kehilla leaders led by African-American Jewish leader Yavilah McCoy of Dimensions Educational Consulting.

    DEIB Team members: Victoria Alcoset, Lia Barrow, Avi Brooks, Ann Finkelstein, Ruthie Levin, Rabbi SAM Luckey, Rabbi Dev Noily, Rachael Reiley, Penny Rosenwasser, Michael Saxe-Taller, Dee Ward, Fresh Lev White
    Past Members: Ali Cannon, Julia Caplan, Lisa Feldstein, Rabbi Gray Myrseth, Aviva Wilcox

    You can reach the DEIB Team at dei@kehillasynagogue.org.

    Make Space, Take Space

    Kehilla’s Black, Indigenous, Mixed Race, and All People of Color (BIPOC) Congress is excited to share with you our Make Space, Take Space Statement below.

    At the end of our year-long Arc of Change training facilitated by Yavilah McCoy, an African American Jewish leader –  that was attended by over 100 congregants including 80 Kehilla leaders in 2021-2022 – participants asked the BIPOC Congress to share their top priority for white folks to work on. The response was: conscious inclusion, to feel like we belong together.

    The BIPOC Congress created this statement, taking into consideration what would help all members and guests feel at home in Kehilla spaces. Acknowledging cultural shifts can be slow, we, and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Team, view honoring this statement as one concrete act – an act to move our Kehilla community towards decentering whiteness, and centering the experiences and leadership of our BIPOC community, and in extension, all marginalized congregants.

    Thank you for participating in the practice of supporting Kehilla as a place of belonging.

    MAKE SPACE, TAKE SPACE:
    A Communication Guide for Practicing Belonging and Equity
     Please know that all people who are here are supposed to be here. In every space that you are in, notice who is present, who is leading, who is speaking, and whose voices, perspectives, and lived experiences are not reflected. Consider, what is your individual role and what is our communal responsibility to make appropriate changes that support belonging and equity.

    When in collective conversation, please notice who else is in the conversation with you. Please make space for those whose identities have been historically and systematically oppressed to speak first and more often if they so choose. That means, for example, Black, Indigenous, mixed-race, or any person of color, may speak before white people. Additionally a person living with disabilities may speak before those who have more access to conversations. In our community it may also mean youth are purposefully included.

    In this model of making space for those voices who are traditionally oppressed, you support creating belonging for all of us. If time is a constraint, you might not get to share; and your voice also matters. Please connect with someone else in the conversation after the gathering.

    These guidelines were created by the BIPOC Congress to support our larger community with practicing belonging and equity in all spaces, particularly in groups, meetings, classrooms, workshops, and services at Kehilla Community Synagogue.

    Kehilla’s Belonging & Allyship / Arc of Change Initiative History: Partial Timeline

    Check out the timeline here.

    Monthly Meetings

    Please see the Kehilla Calendar for meeting times and links to join!

    BIPOC and Beloveds Shabbat

    Held on Second Fridays. Beloved community, this space is for Black, Brown, Indigenous folks, folks who identify as People of Color, and their Beloveds. It’s time to slow down, embody self-care and feel the liberation of stepping into this special time of the week. We’ll light the candles together to invoke our time of rest.  Please feel free to bring ritual items if so moved and share elements of your own practice as we deepen connection and community.

    This space is for us, created by us. Please contact BIPOC@kehillasynagogue.org if you would like to co-lead, lead, or contribute.

    White Folx Decentering Whiteness Affinity Group  (formerly Folks With White Privilege)

    We meet once a month via zoom, 6:30-8:30pm PT: see the Kehilla calendar each month to find the meeting date. Penny Rosenwasser & Maria Lewis co-facilitate this group. Email wfdwhitenesscontact@kehillasynagogue.org to be added to our mailing list, where we send the meeting date and Zoom link each month.
    Kehilla-connected folks who identify as white, we’d love to have you, whether you’ve ever been to these meetings before or not! We work on decentering white supremacy at Kehilla and to make Kehilla more welcoming to people of color and to dismantle our own racism – we share feelings, build skills, and take actions. This is part of the Belonging & Allyship Initiative.

    Feel free to access the articles and videos we’ve used for homework since 2018. These are valuable racial justice resources, some of them Jewish-focused, many of them short:
    (Thanks to Leanne Grossman for organizing and keeping these up to date)
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1pT2mTh1nJ_E4Hc-74P5i8LHbw4xvIvPk3XyQR8YdOwE/edit#gid=0.

    Affinity Group Contacts:

    Black Indigenous People of Color Congress: BIPOC@KehillaSynagogue.org

    BIPOC Families, Kehilla School-Involved Kids of Color: Are you interested in organizing this group? Reach out here!

    Sephardi/Mizrahi:  Wren Ganin-Pinto – wrenbird@riseup.net

    White Parents of Children of Color: Are you interested in organizing this group? Reach out here!

    White Folx Decentering Whiteness: Penny Rosenwasser via wfdwhitenesscontact@kehillasynagogue.org

    For additional resources for white folks, please click here. 

    RACIAL JUSTICE INVOCATION
    by Aurora Levins Morales

    This piece was written for the Kehilla community and shared on Kol Nidre 5779/2018.

    In the heart of this congregation, we have planted the seeds of racial justice, a handful of grains in the earth of our belief, a place to tell untold stories, a place to draw maps of long journeys, a place to unveil our heartbreaks and look our ignorances in the face. The seeds are only beginnings, possibilities that must be watered, weeded, fed. It means we have to haul buckets, spread manure, and pull up the wickedly thorned thistles of our defenses. It means getting down and dirty. This racial justice initiative is a not yet sprouted garden of unequaled beauty germinating among us, medicinal, nourishing, fragrant, and the seeds begin in conversation, in a cluster of six bare earth plots called affinity groups. There are trowels enough to go around, and each one of you has a place to sit cross-legged on the ground and begin.

    Or to change the poem, in the heart of this congregation there is a new song that we can all dance to, and this is its choreography.

    We who have hovered at the edges, with our bundles of silence, our cracked rage, our suitcases full of dispossession, our not rocking the boat for fear of drowning, our letting our white cousins massacre our names, our letting our white cousins ask if we are the help, aching to be known, aching to speak our Jewishness in accents you have never heard before, we who are called indigenous, called Black and of color, we Jews beyond the Ashkenazi pale, will step, hobble, roll into the center, unassimilated, fiercely lovely in our unedited truths, bringing all our ancestors speaking all their languages into this room, saying we are not confusing, singing we Jews are a garment of a thousand threads, a coat of 20 million colors, for the heart of the Jewish world lives equally in every Jew, and no one is exotic, and every one of us is Jewish enough, and however we travel through the world is a Jewish path.

    We who have held the center, raised the roof beams, wrestled old words into new melodies, carried our treasured scraps of Yiddishkeit next to our hearts, carried our shtels, our Europe, our ship’s passenger lists, our landings in the goldeneh medina, we who walked unknowing into the occupation of other people’s worlds, walked unknowing into whiteness that coated us bit by bit like layers of shellac, deadening our senses, we who are etched with the pain of separation from all our others, we settlers hungry for unsettling, we will step hobble, roll outward to the rim of the circle and hold space for our kin, will fast from speaking first, will fast from being the ones who know, will feast on listening, will let the varnish crack and peel, saying we will not be confused, singing the heart of the Jewish world lives equally in every Jew, and no one is the norm, and every one of us is a real Jew, and traveling together through the world is our Jewish path. And stepping in and stepping out we will weave a dance of justice right here in this room.

    There are dance shoes enough to go around, and each one of you has a place to tap your feet, warm up your muscles and move, a place called affinity group. Indigenous people, we have a place. Black people and People of Color, we have a place. Mizrahim and Sephardim we have a place. People with white privilege, we have a place. White parents of children of color, we have a place. Families of color including white co-parents, we have a place. One two three, one two three, dance!

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    The Weekly, Kehilla’s newsletter, is released every Thursday.