Racial Justice & Inclusion Committee at IKAR
Racial Justice and Inclusion at IKAR
Proposal for IKAR Leadership: October 2019
For the last seven months, the staff, members, clergy and board members of IKAR have been meeting as a part of the Committee on Racial Justice and Inclusion. The goal of the committee is to identify key strategic goals and actions that we should put into motion, at a community-wide level, over the next five years to realize the most inclusive, anti-racist, welcoming community possible, as aligned with the mission and vision of IKAR.
Defining the Problem/Opportunity
The Jewish community is known for investing in building vibrant, resourcerich, supportive spaces. Yet for Jews of Color, although sometimes unintended, there are often very real barriers to entry. With Jews of Color estimated to constitute as much as 20% of our Jewish community nationally, and perhaps more in cities like Los Angeles, their relatively low numbers in institutional Jewish spaces demands community organizations to reassess how their practices, norms and policies directly or indirectly may exclude, offend, or alienate Jews of Color. These practices deprive JOCs of the immeasurable joys and benefits of being a part of an inclusive and welcoming Jewish community and deny the rest of the community the fellowship of JOC’s and the contribution JOCs make to Judaism and Jewish life.
Given IKAR’s commitment to and public reputation as a champion of racial justice and equity, we must be vigilant when it comes to ensuring that our own practices align with our values.
With this understanding, IKAR is investing time and organizational capacity to assess how it can build a home for all JOCs. For us to be successful, this effort must engage IKAR’s board, community members, staff, lay leaders, ECC, Limudim, and niche communities. It is our hope that our racial justice and inclusion work will also extend beyond the IKAR community, to other Jewish organization and institutions, locally and nationally.
A complete assessment of these issues will require deep and broad exploration on an ongoing basis to determine evolving needs and how best to address them. The following recommendations are not all inclusive or exhaustive, they are but are first steps to move us along the path of intentionally creating a community that is welcoming, avoids tokenizing and is truly inclusive of the broad diversity of Klal Yisrael.
Goals & Recommendations
We share a commitment to building a community and society that reflects Jewish values of equity, equality and humility, and centers, above all, human dignity. To that end, we are dedicated to fighting structural racism along with all forms of bigotry and hatred that permeate our society, including homo- and transphobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and ableism. In striving to be a truly inclusive, anti-racist community, we reject the language and politics of hatred and division, and are committed to working with love toward justice for all people.
IKAR should explicitly declare itself committed to being an anti-racist community intent on ending structural racism. Language to this affect should be included in mission statements, on the website and in other printed and digital material, not simply as an identity claim but as a challenge and reminder to align our actions with our values.
To better understand and more effectively respond to the ways racism manifests and impacts communities, institutions and individuals on the IKAR staff, board and lay leaders should engage in anti-bias training at least once every two years.
IKAR’s board and staff will adopt the Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization as an assessment model in our work. The Continuum is used by faith and other justice driven organizations. We should use staff and board assessment and community input to assess key needs of the IKAR community, determine where IKAR currently ranks, and set goals based on where we want to be. We should consider announcing and promoting the continuum during high visibility IKAR programs.
To determine racial composition of IKAR with the purpose of becoming a resource and support to JOC households, and in alignment with JOC Field Building Initiative recommendations, we should add questions to the membership form about racial and ethnic makeup of our members and their families. We should determine a mechanism for asking the question that is in line with our community’s values and considerate of various sensitivities that no doubt emerge. For instance, rather than check boxes, we might ask: “We are working to be a just and inclusive community. Do you or does any person in your household identify as a Person of Color? Please share more about your family’s racial and ethnic identity.”
To better support JOC community members, IKAR should develop and deepen relationships with JOC organizations and entities through partnerships, co-sponsorships, and relationship building.
To have a rich, multicultural representation in our leadership, we should build a leadership pipeline that works to ensure a diverse reflection of our community on the board and in our staff. Thoughtful consideration should be given in the board nominations process and in lay leadership opportunities, including the davening team.
To ensure diverse, multicultural representation in the classroom, liturgy and curricula, with the assistance of outside experts, IKAR should assess content and curriculum at ECC and Limudim and religious services and ensure JOCs and issues of racial inclusion are appropriately included.
In the fall of 2020, we should engage an outside consultant to assess what has been done and what still needs to be done to meet our goals of racial inclusivity and equity.
Stakeholders, Roles and Responsibilities
Development, Presentation, and Realization Strategic Plan
Rabbi Ronit Tsadok