We’ve enjoyed, if I can use that word, several programs of high quality and profound impact during these first few months of our community’s exploration of American racism.
My conception of our learning process is this: we’ll begin by learning about the history of racism in America and its lasting impact and realities in the America in which we live today. The second step will be to explore, in a safe and respectful community, our own feelings, experiences and beliefs. Finally, our third step will be to consider what, if anything, we might do to fight this scourge and make a difference for the better. Of course, our exploration of the steps will overlap, but I do see them as a logical progression.
After I launched our conversation with my D’var Torah on Yom Kippur morning, we followed with several things to educate ourselves. On Friday nights we’ve heard from Ariella Rada, an Ethiopian Israeli and member of Chicago’s Israel Consulate; David Cassell & Andrea Johnson, staff members for PeacePlayers International (whom we hope to volunteer with during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in January); and, last Shabbat, we had the opportunity to begin to process and explore these things personally, through a communalogue on the topic. Additionally, we’ve had engaging discussions of the novel Underground Railroad and the film Blackkklansman. Finally, we had a particularly well-attended visit at the IL Holocaust Museum, with an exhibit that shed light not only on the Nazi period but on America and its own racism.
We’ll continue with more such opportunities in the near future. Look for our soon-to-be-posted quarterly calendar covering January-March and, in particular, two interracial opportunities during the MLK Day weekend.
In the meantime, two things of interested caught my attention this morning. The first is an op-ed in this morning’s Tribune by Rabbi Jonah Pesner. Rabbi Pesner is a community organizer, director of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center – whose activism on many fronts, including Black-Jewish relations and civil rights has been ongoing for several decades – and senior vice-president of the Reform Movement in America. In the op-ed, he discusses a motion that will be discussed and voted on at the Biennial Meeting of the Movement this week in Chicago – a motion calling for study and the development of proposals relative to the issue of reparations for African-Americans.
The second item to catch my attention I became aware of when I sent Rabbi Pesner’s op-ed to a cousin of ours and he sent this article back. While I’ve been aware, for some time, of Jewish participation in the slave trade, the story and details presented here were completely new to me. The title of the article is “The Centrality of Slavery: Jews in the Atlantic World” and I’ll leave it to you to read it and discover this little known aspect of Jewish history for yourself. I think you’ll be fascinated by it.
I’m eager to hear your thoughts about these two pieces. Please comment on this post, or send me an email, or find a chance to mention it when we’re next together.
In the meantime, let our learning continue.