On the weekend of January 15-18, the Reform Jewish Movement will commemorate the legacy of the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with its annual observance of Shabbat Tzedek. During the course of these four days, congregations across the country will take part in educational programming, interfaith and intercultural activities, service projects and political advocacy that celebrate the achievements that have been made in civil rights and the challenges that remain in the work to achieve true racial equality.
This year, Shabbat Tzedek also coincides with the launching of the URJ’s campaign on racial justice. Centered around the campaign’s three R’s – reflect, relate, and reform – Shabbat Tzedek programming will focus on learning more about how structural racism affects our communities, on raising up the racial diversity within Reform Judaism, on building relationships across lines of race and on urging our lawmakers to pass meaningful reforms to address racial inequality.
The Religious Action Center has put together a variety of resources to help congregations celebrate Shabbat Tzedek and connect the weekend to the larger work of the campaign. All of these resources can be accessed at the RAC’s Shabbat Tzedek page. Here are just a few of the materials that are available:
- As part of the Reflect component of the campaign, which is focused on facilitating education and conversation about race, you can find a program for starting discussions about race in your congregation, lists of recommended children’s books, films on racial justice and RAC Reads discussion guides for Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Waking Up White by Debby Irving.
- Several resources are available for helping congregations to embrace racial diversity. These include a checklist for racial inclusivity, information about Jews of Color as well as a detailed list of books, articles, blog posts and other media on the topic of Jewish racial diversity.
- The RAC has partnered with Repair the World to offer two unique Shabbat Tzedek resources. First, there is a Turn the Tables discussion guide for talking about racial justice during Shabbat Tzedek dinners. The guide includes several possible activities to spark conversation on racial justice, as well as tips to ensure that these difficult conversations are engaging, respectful and impactful. Second, congregations that are participating in or hosting service projects during Shabbat Tzedek are encouraged to register their projects on the Repair the World website. Repair the World will then advertise these projects as part of its MLK Day 2016 service campaign and provide congregations with additional resources for ensuring that their projects are successful.
- The RAC has compiled sample services, sermon starters, prayer materials and religious school resources that deal with the themes of Shabbat Tzedek and the importance of the Reform Jewish community’s involvement in advancing racial justice.
As part of Shabbat Tzedek, the RAC and Rabbis Organizing Rabbis will also be hosting a national call-in day to encourage the Senate to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123). This historic bill would take vital first steps to reduce mass incarceration and to correct the racial disparities in the criminal justice system by reducing mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and restoring judicial discretion in sentencing. The call-in day will take place on Tuesday, January 19 – the day after MLK Day. Sign up to let us know that you will be joining Reform Jews across the country on January 19 as we call our senators and urge them to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.