United to End Racism, at a Synagogue

A few weeks ago, eight of us from our Regional Jewish leaders’ group led a United to End Racism event at our local synagogue. It was a success in interesting ways.

As we had hoped, the weeks of preparation made for good chances for us to build closer relationships as white people and to form a stronger team. Our sessions and support group meetings about racism leading up to the workshop were deeper and more productive. Preparing to be part of bringing United to End Racism to people we knew gave us a strong sense of common purpose and made discharging on the racism we carry more real for us. We worked hard in sessions and in reaching out to invite our contacts in the community. We also backed each other in the logistical work to make the workshop happen. Racism further isolates white people from each other, and doing this as a group contradicted that.

Here are a few things I noticed in leading the workshop:

The white people who came were eager to do this work. Once we offered our perspectives on connection, the goodness of white people, and the way that racism damages us and limits our lives, they could use our attention in the support groups to begin to have sessions on their oppressor material.

We set a goal of deepening our relationships with other white synagogue members around the mutual goal of ending racism, rather than having a goal of bringing them into RC. Unlike at United to End Racism projects at wide-world national and international conferences, we were working within an ongoing local organization and set of relationships. Without knowing exactly how we could continue beyond this first workshop, we had a sense of building a foundation for further work. We’ve since been invited to lead parts of the synagogue’s upcoming meetings with a citywide racial-justice coalition and to lead a follow-up workshop during Yom Kippur, one of the primary and most-attended Jewish holidays.

We felt more connected to people we know in the synagogue and more hopeful about that being a place where we can be ourselves. We came out of hiding in some way. That helped me to better understand how for many white people it still seems like a secret to us that ending racism is a priority in our lives. We were daring to break through how our relationships with white people have been limited by staying separate around and silent on racism. The workshop was a chance to act on how ending racism is important to us personally and in that way to reclaim a key piece of closeness with other white people.

Billy Yalowitz

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for
leaders of Jews

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