Talking about race
As the Jewish community becomes more racially, ethnically and culturally diverse, Be’chol Lashon seeks to bring the historic Jewish commitment to civil rights and racial justice forward into the 21st century, providing new opportunities for Jewish professionals and others to actively engage in conversations race, ethnicity and identity.
Many Jewish organizations state “welcoming” and/or “inclusivity” as part of their mission statement and are interested in developing programs aimed at diversity. Despite the Jewish community’s progressive views and pride in contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, Jews along with other Americans tend to avoid talking about race. Race remains the proverbial “elephant in the room,” miring Jewish organizations in institutional inertia. A sensitive and potentially volatile issue, well-intentioned efforts can be fraught or derailed because of misunderstandings.
In a world connected through social media and technology, knowing how to encounter the ‘other’ is an increasingly important skill. How can we be better prepared? How can we be “culturally competent?”
“Recognizing the distinct cultural, linguistic, and ethnic identities of different people and groups is not merely a question of civility, but a vital human need.”
—Charles Taylor, philosopher
Consultation & Planning
Be’chol Lashon consults with organizations to tailor strategies that best meet community goals. We help to ascertain what organizations feel they are doing well, and identify areas of concern and improvement. Successfully welcoming all kinds of Jews requires that the planning be driven by the community’s needs. The American Jewish community is far from uniform—every community, family, and individual has a different perspective on issues of identity, race, and diversity. Meeting the needs of multiracial Jews, families, friends and allies requires a flexible and input driven approach.
Be’chol Lashon facilitates workshops or more informal community conversations to air concerns, gain comfort with being vulnerable and model how to talk about race. We recognize the need to meet participants where they are, allowing space to explore the root causes and consequences of unexamined bias and prejudice, opening up opportunities for safe, structured dialogue. . In the words of one participant, “Your conference helped make me aware of my privilege but not ashamed or embarrassed by it.”
Our goal is to help Jewish professionals and others communicate more effectively across lines of social identity and difference. Films, books, poetry, or other media can be excellent conversation starters about what roles race, religion, community and family play in identity formation.
Passport to Peoplehood
The trainings dovetail with Be’chol Lason’s Passports to Peoplehood (P2P) educational resources that can be adapted for a variety of age groups and educational settings.P2P strengthens Jewish identity by expanding awareness of the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of Jews around the world. We provide historical context and understanding of social change, and explore unexamined prejudice and bias and concepts like microaggression.
By engaging children, teens and young adults who are in the process of identity formation, we help establish the language and experience of Jewish diversity as an integral part of their Jewish identity. We focus on individuals’ stories and their value to the collective, encouraging conversations and celebrating differences between people as an asset. Highlighting inclusion, diversity and connection as hallmarks of Judaism, provides basic building blocks for not only instilling Jewish pride, but also gaining cultural competency in an increasingly global world.