Safety, Equity, and Accountability is the Path to a Thriving Jewish Community

Ta’amod in 2024
February 26, 2024Nicole Nevarez

Healthy, safe, and equitable culture inside Jewish organizations is absolutely imperative in light of the continued rise in antisemitism at home and abroad. The organizations that have the tools to foster psychological safety, community, and inclusion are faring as well as possible in the face of this. Those that are lacking, especially where there were already culture issues, may be inadvertently perpetuating further harm at a time when people are already vulnerable and hurting.

While the shadow of October 7th looms large in our community and is far from behind us, the need for Ta'amod's work existed long before. In the five years since Ta'amod's inception, we can now report on trends in the community.

It is clear that the Jewish community has a significant need and desire for our work, particularly in promoting psychological safety. Ongoing abusive and bullying dynamics; problematic management and supervision; and the more egregious harms of discrimination, harassment, and abuse are ever present. Ta'amod began as a gender equity initiative but has evolved to help organizations create effective communities of belonging and promote internal cultures of wholeness, transparency, open communication, and accountability. This requires a real commitment to allocating resources equally between organizational culture and deliverables. This is the first principle we teach in every program.

Time and time again, we hear of harms that lead to the loss of Jewish professionals. We also speak to organizations where individuals feel seen and cared for, but this is not the norm. Healthy organizations understand the time, energy, and money needed to foster a functioning and sustainable culture.

The Jewish community is becoming more diverse with generational, ideological, and identity differences creating complex dynamics. This increasing diversity provides an opportunity for positive cultural shifts toward well being, inclusion, and belonging. To nourish a values-based community, we must take action that underscores the data-based and research-driven understanding that our bottom line will always suffer when our culture is not attended to. Ta'amod promotes a Hineini framework: "I am here, aware, and ready to show up for the most important work." Individuals and organizations must live out this motto to actualize cultures that are human centered, responsive, and deliver the best outcomes.

Demand for our programs and offerings continues to increase. After taking part in our programs, people consistently report an increased sense of personal and collective responsibility to promote cultural change using the tools gained from our sessions. Yet, Ta'amod and similar organizations face a challenge in securing sustained funding. It is important to acknowledge that long-term change requires investment and sustained financial support. From small synagogues in middle America to national organizations, we repeatedly hear, "We get it, we want to do the work, we are ready for you to help us…we just need to find the funding."

In our program feedback surveys, we see consistent themes around creating psychological safety and addressing culture. Testimonials from our participants indicate that transparent, equity-centered culture makes a powerful difference for folks.

In 2023, we worked with summer camp leadership from across the country through our partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp. This group participated in immersive learning and training over eight months, created action plans to share their knowledge with camp staff, and followed up to ensure changes were being implemented in real time. Camp leadership accomplished this by prioritizing psychological safety and equitable culture while implementing their new tools for ongoing staff feedback. Afterwards, camp leaders reported that their training and programming made a tremendous impact in their staff feeling safe, seen, and wanting to return to camp.

What does this work look like? Organizations and leaders must focus on human-centered culture, taking into account the well being of staff, lay leaders, and participants above all else. Congregational leaders can participate in the URJ's many REDI trainings, bring in consultants to help recalibrate, and ask themselves some of the questions below:

  • Do we understand what equitable culture really looks like? If not, how can we educate ourselves?
  • Does our leadership reflect the actual diversity of the Jewish people? Can people see their identities reflected back at all levels?
  • Are we considering safety, equity, and inclusion in everything we do? What voices are not represented in our decision-making process?
  • Do we know what best practices look like in this process? If not, what learning and resources do we need to engage to ensure this?
  • Are we taking proactive measures to solicit feedback and implementing assessments to ensure we understand how our people are feeling?
  • Are we creating safe spaces for people to share their experiences and raise concerns while providing tools to respond when we identify issues?
  • Do we have robust policies in place for how people can raise concerns? Are there multiple points of access? How do we communicate these processes and ensure that people know what to do?

If you don't know how to get started, Ta'amod is here to support you! We can help you define what you need and create an action plan to move you closer to your goals. At Ta'amod, we are heartened by the number of congregations that want to invest in change. We are here and ready to answer that call! Whether your congregation has current challenges that need addressing or you're unsure of what your community needs, we offer hands-on guidance to support you. We are here for training, coaching, education, and workshops which can be customized for your needs. We want to challenge you to invest in resources that will make sweeping change possible. Together, we can build a communal reality that will put Ta'amod out of business!

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