Because we are Jews and are taught to pursue justice, so we have been running hard.
Because a beloved leader and member of our congregation, a Jew of color, urged us to and then she died. We do this work in part to honor her memory
Because Black and Brown people were not welcomed into our Shabbat services the same way as white people, and we found out about it and then we all had to change.
Because we realized that white people in and out of Jewish communities learn racism from birth, and we had to do something. As Jews, we too participate in keeping white supremacy strong.
Because we realized we white Jews here are mostly Ashkenazi and what did we even know about Sephardic, Mizrachi, Ethiopian Jews?
Because more and more of our kids are small Jews of color and they wonder where all the Jews are who look like them. Because more and more of our families are multiracial and fighting racism must be part of how we build and strengthen our communities.
Because we fear for the young and old men and women of color in our community and never want to mourn violence they might suffer -- at the hands of law enforcement or others -- or witness unfair and unjust treatment they might experience.
Because we are beyond sick at the number of young Black people killed by the police just this year.
Because while we, as white Jews, have to remember our history of oppression and assimilation, we also have to acknowledge that on the street we appear white.
Because as white and non-white Jews, we want to oppose systems of oppression and injustice.
Therefore, we went back to the source, and started writing a Torah of Race, from "In the beginning" to "when we got free" to "what is a holy place." It's a work in progress, and what progress!
Therefore, thanks to our congregation's president, a great champion of justice, we have a race task force of white people and people of color and a board member of color and a Jew of color who is now a teacher in our school and a lot more awareness across our community
Therefore the rabbi and a Jew of color spoke about race and racism at our 5773 High Holy Day services, and this year five members of the race task force spoke, raising the issues, asking questions and affirming that our community will do the hard work to wrestle with racism.
Therefore a lot of us have learned anew about our own white racism and systems of white supremacy and have had to look honestly at ourselves and those systems
Therefore one task force member wrote a Jewish companion to a set of anti-racist principles and we wonder if anything like it has ever been done before.
Therefore we established a gathering and network of multiracial families, and they celebrate together and support each other
Therefore all the teachers in our children's learning program participated in training about understanding and fighting white supremacy and were really uncomfortable and really learned and therefore our board and staff will soon get uncomfortable and learn together as well
Therefore we developed a curriculum and held house meetings on race and a lot of people learned and now they want to learn more and now house parties are planned, with dancing and storytelling as well as talk.
Therefore our learning spread and many of us lit public Chanukah candles candles that helped light up and support #BlackLivesMatter.
Therefore our learning spread into the congregation and a rabbinic student and congregational member created the groundbreaking "Lament: A Tisha b'Av Service About Racist Violence and Destruction."
Therefore our learning spread and the rabbi spoke at a rally of politicians and clergy and angry and sad people after the murders at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, SC. She asked, "White people, what are we going to do?" about dismantling racism; it has to start with each of us.
So, white people, white Jews, what are we going to do?
Getting to that question took the rabbi a lifetime and three powerful years of learning. Racism runs deep and long. Working against it has to, too. This is what we have learned: Working to undo racism is what we must do as Jews.
We are Jews in a 22-year-old congregation that is progressive and inclusive and it took us 19 years to start working on racism.
How long will it take you?
As we stand in the new year 5776, can we forgive ourselves for racism and all the benefits we receive just from being white? Can we pledge to take action to undo racism, and in doing so, return to our humanity?