Jews who support reconstruction demand reparations and go on racial justice pilgrimages
Jews who support reconstruction demand reparations and go on racial justice pilgrimages

Israel: One small Jewish movement is speaking out as Black History Month approaches and as the country continues to mourn Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after being severely beaten by five Black ex-police officers.

The board of directors of Reconstructing Judaism last week approved a resolution demanding compensation for Native Americans and slave descendants for the harms brought about by colonialism, slavery, and white supremacist policies.

The movement's congregational and rabbinical associations had already given their approval to the resolution, which had taken two years to develop.

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Reconstructing Judaism, a small liberal movement with 90 congregations in the United States and a few abroad, is following in the steps of the much larger Reform Jewish movement, whose congregational arm passed a resolution in support of a federal commission to look into reparations for Black Americans in 2019.

Although HR 40, a congressional bill that would develop reparations proposals, is supported by the Reconstructing Judaism resolution, it does not expressly call for monetary compensation.

Its main message is a plea for "deep reflection on the ways in which we have contributed to or benefited from racial injustices in our communities and to answer the call of Torah to pursue justice and practise teshuvah by taking practical steps to repair the harm." 

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The Tikkun Olam Commission, named after the Hebrew phrase for "repairing the world," which has prioritised racial justice, is the author of the resolution.

The need for reparations for Black Americans has grown over the past few years as a result of institutions like Georgetown University and Princeton Theological Seminary offering free tuition to the enslaved people's descendants as atonement for using the sale of slaves to settle debts and bolster their endowments.

The state of California established the nation's first task force on reparations last year to assist state officials in considering how the state should address systemic racism.

The focus on racial justice by the denomination goes beyond the resolution. It sent a group of Black Jews to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, last October. The denomination is now asking five or six of those members to assist in leading a new, mostly white Jewish, pilgrimage to the South.

We are a diverse community, according to Lazora Jordan, a Reconstructionist Jew from New Jersey who represents her denomination on the Tikkun Olam Commission and visited Alabama last fall. We pledge to take further action and make this verbal pledge.

One of the leaders of the 200+ person pilgrimage to Georgia and Alabama in March will be Jordan. The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia will host a virtual discussion about the first pilgrimage's experiences on Monday.

The denomination has also hired two Black Jews to create works of art for its Philadelphia headquarters that will be displayed permanently and discuss reparations. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College will be able to create research papers and lectures on Jewish ethical responses to racism thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

The denomination hired a Black rabbi in 2021 to oversee its initiatives for racial diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The denomination's Tikkun Olam expert, Rabbi Micah Geurin Weiss, stated, "Some of us are Black; many of us aren't." "Regardless, racism is harmful to everyone. All of us aspire to live out our values and to be more fully human.

According to a meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, the majority of American Jews are white, with Jews of colour making up 12% to 15% of the country's Jewish population.

While many Black Jews believe that white Jews have benefited from racism, many white Jews see themselves as targets of white supremacy.

In an effort to face history and inequality and take action to mend the harm, the resolution and efforts to engage in racial justice.

Jordan, who also serves as the chair of the denomination's advisory group for Jews of Color, said, "It's important for us to talk as a community about Jewish experiences that live at the intersection of different identities targeted by white supremacy today.

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Jordan believes that as long as racial justice is prioritised, everyone will live in a safer nation.

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