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Update on Kehilla’s Racial Justice / Uncentering Whiteness Initiative

from Rabbi Dev Noily

At High Holy Days last fall we announced an initiative to turn some focused attention to the ways that the structures of privileging whiteness in our society play out in our Kehilla community. We extended an open invitation to join in the process. Since then, Penny Rosenwasser and SAM Luckey, our Rabbinic Intern, have joined me in doing the initial organizing.

In December we did outreach to people who expressed interest, and we identified three potential ways to plug in: 1) as part of a Design Team that would clarify goals and design the first stages of the process; 2) as part of Implementation Teams that would help bring the process to life; and 3) as part of a Consultant Team of people with experience in racial justice and challenging white supremacy, and in helping people and organizations do transformative work in this area.  We asked people interested in being part of the Design Team to complete a short application, with a plan to build a small team that included leadership from People of Color (POC).

In January we convened a multi-racial group of Kehilla members to review the Design Team applications and to offer guidance about how to begin the process. That group included Eveline Shen, Remedios Martinez-Cantu, Penny Rosenwasser, SAM Luckey and me. Hillary Brooks was also part of the group, but wasn’t able to join the meeting. The group that met noticed that this initial stage of the process could go better if we added some more preliminary work to provide the Design Team with clearer guidance.

We were guided by:

Our desire to be accountable to People of Color in our community;

Our noticing that we have an incredible wealth of people among the group of folks interested in being part of this initiative, who have extensive wisdom and experience with racial justice work (we’re calling them “experts” for now.)

We decided to put the selection of the Design Team on hold, and to move forward with these preliminary steps.

1)  Plan a gathering of the “experts” and engage their minds and experiences to help us develop guidelines and goals for the Design Team;

The Experts’ Circle should be at least 50% POC.

Everyone interested in being part of the Design Team (who is not in the Experts’ Circle) will be invited to witness the Experts’ Circle, so they can learn from the conversation in the Experts’ Circle, and be informed both by the outcome of the Circle and by its process.

Invite POC and parents of kids of Color to witness the Experts’ Circle, and to contribute to what the Experts’ Circle is asked to address.

The focus of the Experts’ Circle will be to offer some guidelines for putting together the Design Team, to help articulate some of the goals for the process, and to share best practices.

As I write this, we’re zeroing in on a date for the gathering of the “Experts’ Circle” and we hope that will happen at the end of March.

Kehilla’s Board of Directors has also been doing work to un-center whiteness, through a regular component of education and reflection at monthly board meetings, led by our board co-chair Karen Cohn.

In February I attended the first of three 4-day training sessions as part of the 2018 Anne Braden Program, along with 50 other organizers and activists from all over the bay area, the U.S. and Canada. Run by the Catalyst Project, the Braden Program is a four month political education and leadership development program designed to support the vision, strategy, and organizing skills of white activists in becoming accountable, principled anti-racist organizers building multiracial movements for justice. I’m excited to bring my learning and relationships from this program into our continuing work at Kehilla.

If you’d like to be involved in building this process, and you haven’t already filled out the form to let us know what you’re interested in, please access the form here.  And please be in touch with me or with SAM if you have any questions.

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