More about the White Ashkenazi Jews Eliminating Racism Workshop

The White Ashkenazi Jews Eliminating Racism Workshop offered a huge contradiction to isolation and urgency. Dvora1 set a tone from the very beginning that we were going to “put our feet up” and get to notice and have each other, and that we were not there to accomplish anything. (Wow!) Before I got to the workshop I couldn’t imagine how she might contradict the terror that motivates our desperate attempts to do something, anything, to prove that we are worthy of being on the planet. I had lots of sessions imagining a hundred and thirty terrified white Jews, all in one room, clamoring to prove that we were okay. Within five minutes of starting the workshop, Dvora had indeed offered a contradiction to that material.2 I could feel people relaxing almost immediately.

She had us work on the ways that racism affects our lives. I got to be in a demonstration in which I shook and cried and screamed about the racism I witness and sometimes perpetuate in my current life. I said something like, “I don’t have any idea how to think about this.” Dvora reminded me that I didn’t have to figure it out by myself, and I discharged hard on where I can’t even tell3 that people are there or I don’t know how to connect with them. I was soon working on how I was consistently left alone in my crib as a baby. I had a huge “get me out of here, come get me” session and could see so clearly how the work on racism leads us back to our biggest early hurts.

Joan Ostrove
Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA

I understood at this workshop, more than ever before, that there is nothing stopping me in the present from fighting for my humanity, which means taking on4 racism as key and, as Dvora said, “coming home.”

For many years, I have seen and been part of white Ashkenazi Jewish projects that have fought racism but have not taken on anti-Jewish oppression. I can do it fully as a human, fully as a Jew. There is no contradiction. This workshop culminated in my gut understanding that I can feel past compromises, feel past destruction, feel oppressor distresses, and be fully human right now.

Diane Balser
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA

As a child growing up in Texas (USA), I did not “look Jewish” and was often asked if I really was. I had blond hair and blue eyes. (I was the only one in my family who had blue eyes.) Due to the heavy anti-Jewish oppression in Texas, the Jews there were very separated from each other—by denomination of Jew (Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox), by economic class, and by level of assimilation. My family was Reform, and it appeared to me that only one kind of Jew was okay—the kind just like us: solidly middle class, very assimilated, with practically no traces of the old country (no one in my family spoke Yiddish; the ones who had come over from Europe were several generations back).

The message I got was to not associate with those Jews on either side of us—some were “too ethnic,” and some were too ostentatious with their wealth. The message was to hide, to not act or look Jewish, to try to fit in. A big message from my dad was “don’t make waves.”

At the workshop, Dvora said that the racism “comes in on the tails of the internalized oppression.” I understood that in my head but not from my own experience. Then she asked who had been targeted for having a Jewish look and did a demonstration with a woman who had gotten the message over and over that she was not pretty, that she needed to “fix” things about herself to be acceptable. At one point, the client was yelling, “I am your ideal (of beauty)! I am your ideal!”

As someone who was told that I was pretty and it was good that I didn’t look Jewish, I finally understood the real cost, the heartbreak, of how that had kept me apart from my Jewish sisters and brothers and how I had inadvertently acted out the internalized oppression at other Jews.

Randi Freundlich
Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Dvora had us look around the room filled with a hundred and thirty-four faces and encouraged us to notice and believe that any face our eyes landed on was of someone who both wanted us and we wanted back. Getting to know, deep down, the truth that we are each wanted and that we really get to have each other is a major contradiction to our isolation. That isolation is one of the things that has set us up to take on5 racist patterns.

Marci Stern
Pennsauken, New Jersey, USA

The workshop moved all of our Jewish liberation work forward. Dvora’s years of both leading eliminating racism workshops and counseling Jews and non-Jews in their Intensives6 in Seattle, plus her being deeply rooted in her own Jewish soul as a proud Jew from Brooklyn, New York (USA), were all in full display as she lovingly and with great humor, compassion, and wisdom led us to the center of the work on racism and, equally important, to the center of the work on getting ourselves.

She modeled beautifully for all of us what it can look like to lead while being fully and unabashedly oneself as a beloved white Ashkenazi Jew. The love and generosity she showed to each and every Jew at the workshop enabled us to be kinder, more loving, and more present with each other.

Kol Kvod (from strength to strength), Dvora. Mazel tov (congratulations)7 on leading an excellent workshop.

Cherie Brown
International Liberation Reference Person for Jews

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of Jews

1 Dvora Slavin, the leader of the workshop and the Regional Reference Person for South King County, Washington, and Hawaii, USA
2 “Material” means distress.
3 “Tell” means perceive.
4 “Taking on” means facing and doing something about.
5 “Set us up to take on” means predisposed us to adopt.
6 An Intensive is twenty hours of one-way Re-evaluation Counseling, for a fee, at Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources, in Seattle, Washington, USA.

7 Kol kvad and mazel tov are both Hebrew phrases.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00