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Four Suggestions to Building Communities of Belonging this High Holy Days

In 5782, we have four suggestions for effective engagement in building communities of belonging.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are a time for renewal and repentance. Each year we are encouraged to pause and reflect on who we have been and chart a new path forward.

On Yom Kippur, we read in the liturgy that teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah (acts of kindness or financial contributions), can help avert the harshest decrees. The ills that befall us as a society cannot change unless we reflect on and challenge the power structures and individual biases that got us here. Renewal is possible.

In 5781, many Jewish communities rededicated themselves to racial justice work to create communities that put belonging at the center of Jewish life. As we enter the Jewish New Year of 5782,  we have four small suggestions for effective engagement in building communities of belonging. These tips can be practiced within the Jewish community and beyond.

  1. Become an usher for the High Holy Days (HHD).
    • One of the key choke-points for Jews of Color, especially at HHD, is getting in the door. By volunteering as an usher, you can help raise awareness of the multiracial diversity that characterizes the Jewish people globally is present in your community. Interrupting and redirecting bias is not a burden of change that should solely be left to Jews of Color.
  2. Convene conversations around anti-racism.
    • During the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashana and then through the High Holy Days, we set aside time daily among community or on our own for reflection. This time is an excellent opportunity to make space for anti-racist learning that can lead to action. There are many great resources out there that can help you continue this work. (Check out the suggested resources at the end of this article!)
  3. Diversify your holiday content. 
    • Take the time to delve into the history and traditions of a different Jewish community to expand your understanding of the diversity of Jewish identity. It can be as simple as the food you serve at your holiday table or a new tune you incorporate into your prayer. Check-in with your clergy, ask how they can incorporate music, Text, Torah, and traditions from Jewish communities beyond your own in their sermons, as well as in kavvanot/intention setting, Torah study, choir selections, or child care programming, etc.
    • Encourage your community to learn the origins of these selections and why it’s essential to include them.
  4. Give Tzedakah.
    • Donate for the sake of Justice. There is no question that each of us needs to do anti-racist work in our own lives. We must support the ongoing anti-racist work done by Jewish organizations leading the charge for change in our communities.

Suggested Resources:

The Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese Singh

Passport to Peoplehood: Rosh Hashanah & Lunar New Year 

On Shofar Blowing and Racism

Be’chol Lashon’s High Holiday Resource Page