"Let justice well up like water, and righteousness like a flowing stream." ~Amos 5:24
Our country is engaged in a reckoning with racial injustice. Although recent protests have focused particularly on police violence toward African-Americans in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, they have also sparked a much-needed and long overdue conversation about the systemic racism and inequities that are ingrained into so much of our society. That conversation—and all the pain that comes with it—is happening at the OFJCC as well, where racism has directly harmed so many of our staff and community, and where our deepest values call for us to cry out in the face of injustice.
Injustice offends both the American spirit and the Jewish soul. Our Jewish practice teaches us not only that every single human is created in the image of God and possesses infinite value, but that we have a responsibility to proactively build a just society for every single person in our community. And although the United States has struggled since before its founding with the legacy of slavery and ongoing practices of racial division and violence against African-Americans and people of color, it is also a society founded on the promise that all are created equal, that all should be free from arbitrary violence and inequitable treatment, and that all citizens have an obligation to safeguard these freedoms.
These promises remain tragically unfulfilled. We must do better—as a society, as a community and as an institution.
The OFJCC is determined to fulfill its own mission, as an organization dedicated to building community and enriching lives, by taking active steps to advance antiracism. Among these steps:
- As program presenters, one of the first things we can do is to create opportunities for our community to deepen its learning and to take action. One such event took place on Sunday, June 14, an interfaith dialogue between Reverend Anthony A. Johnson and Rabbi Jessica Oleon Kirschner on fighting racism. You may also have noticed our social media amplifying more voices that need to be heard at this time and offering tools for family conversations and study of racial justice.
- As community builders, we have particularly grieved with our longstanding partners at predominantly Black congregations in our community, with whom we have worked on interfaith events. We are listening to our partners on how to provide support that is meaningful and effective.
- Most importantly, this must be an opportunity for us to examine our own practices. Are we creating an environment where "justice flows like water"—where every person who works at the OFJCC, who takes part in our programs, and who arrives on campus truly feels welcomed and treated with dignity? We are studying the specific steps that we need to take to improve on all these measures, with participation from staff and the help of experts and outside voices in our community.
We recognize that we are just at the beginning of a process that must go much deeper if we are to make substantive changes. We are committed to this work as an expression of our most fundamental values. We look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.
Zack Bodner, CEO