Jackie Congedo — In Conversation
Our Pursuit of Racial Justice
The work of fighting for racial justice will take all of us. As Elie Wiesel said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” There are no easy answers, but there is much that we can do.
It takes a conscious commitment—a sincere investment of time and effort—to understand and address hundreds of years of racial injustice. Following the recent murder of George Floyd, we’ve heard from many in the Jewish community who’d like to learn more about the roots of structural racism and how it fuels injustice today. Many are committed to learning more about the Black community and how we can achieve racial justice. Many are also asking about the experiences of Jews of color; and Jews of color are asking—again—to be seen and heard.
Our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), a part of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, is committed to the work of racial justice because it is the right thing to do. It is also explicit in our mission: to protect Jewish security, recognizing that Jewish security depends on a just society for all people. This mission instructs that we must work to achieve justice wherever it is denied. As such, we are committed to being a resource for you:
- We have curated a list of resources for people of all ages to learn more about the struggle for racial justice and how you can help. And here and here are the beginnings of a discussion about our ability as Jews to support both Israel and Black Lives Matter.
- At the end of May, the JCRC along with The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center hosted two discussions on Tackling Antisemitism and Racial Disparities During COVID-19 that are available to watch now.
- Celebrate Juneteenth with JFNA and nationally acclaimed political commentators as they unpack the history and relevance of Juneteenth. Additionally, our local community partners are celebrating virtually all weekend with an array of informative and cultural programs.
- “Ending Racism in America: A Discussion with Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP,” organized by the JCPA (Jewish Council for Public Affairs).
- “Listen and Learn with African American Community Leaders.” New York’s JCRC sponsored this enlightening event.
- “One Left Turn Away from Being George Floyd”: Lonnie G. Bunch III on the struggle for racial justice in America and the Black-Jewish alliance, organized by AJC.
- “The Black-Jewish Alliance: Then and Now,” organized by the American Jewish Archives.
As essential as resources and education are, they are only part of what JCRC does. We convene diverse Jewish leaders in order to speak on behalf of our Jewish community with consensus statements such as upon the death of George Floyd, and we add our voice and support to the statements of other coalitions and partners. But words fall short without action, and so we are committed to ongoing advocacy work not only on Israel and antisemitism, but also on our priority issues of combating hate, criminal justice reform, gun violence reduction, and voter access and education. We launched a Black-Jewish Task Force to stimulate honest conversation across differences. We continually share protest opportunities and thought pieces on social media, and write and coordinate articles for publication in local outlets. Through L’Shem Cincinnati, JCRC’s engagement arm, and our Jewish Cincinnati Civic Engagement Council, we connect Jewish community members interested in racial and social justice with opportunities to learn, build relationships, and act on relevant local issues.
Our work is ongoing across many fronts: coalition work, alliance-building, government advocacy, education. For example, we are working with the Western States Center and other local partners to develop an innovative new program—the Leaders in Light Institute—to educate business and civic leaders on issues of antisemitism, racism, and other forms of extremism, in order to support and inform people who can influence change in our community.
Our JCRC has long devoted itself to coalitions with civic and faith organizations representing people of color. We remain committed to working with our local Black community, centering and amplifying the voices of Black and Brown people including Jews of color, and advocating on a systemic, governmental level for policies and laws that address the injustices in our world.
There is so much work to do. Know that you continue, through the JCRC, to advocate for racial justice. But each of us individually can also take a first step—or maybe it’s a 100th step—by taking time to learn from and engage with the resources above.
If you have any questions or want to get involved, please do not hesitate to contact Jackie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-985-1597; or Shep at email@example.com or 513-985-1505.
Jewish Community Relations Council
Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
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