Resolution on Our Community's Pursuit of Racial Justice


Union for Reform Judaism Biennial Resolutions Committee
Submitted to the URJ Biennial

As the Reform Movement continues our fervent pursuit of social justice in North America, we deepen our dedication to the pursuit of racial justice, recognizing that our vision of dignity, equity and safety for all people has yet to be fully realized. This pursuit is fundamental to our identity as a multiracial Reform Jewish community, is rooted in our enduring values, and requires transformative work in both our communal institutions and in the public arena.

Systemic racism persists as a challenge to our most cherished Jewish values. We are taught not only that all of humanity is created B’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image, but that humanity began with one person, Adam, so that no one could say to another “’My ancestors are greater than yours’” (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5). We seek a world in which the structures and behaviors in our own community fully welcome and include people of color. We also commit to working against public policies that discriminate against and devalue people of color.

The Talmud states: “Kol Yisrael aravim zeh b’zeh – All of Israel is responsible for one another” (Shevuot 39a). For decades, the Reform Movement has taken strong positions against racism and in support of civil rights laws in our broader society. Our deep sense of responsibility to one another also compels us to pursue racial justice for the sake of our own multiracial community. Jews of color,[1] Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews are members of our community who are directly impacted by racial injustice. Greater efforts must be made to center the voices and leadership of Jews of color in our synagogues, communal spaces and Reform Movement institutions. The pursuit of justice requires that we seek out areas of growth, improvement and change of our own community to make racial justice a central feature of our Movement.

For Jews who do not identity as people of color, the pursuit of racial justice is equally essential. The prophet Jeremiah teaches, “Seek the welfare of the city to which I [God] have exiled you and pray to Adonai on its behalf, for in its welfare shall you find your own” (29:7). Although such Jews may at times benefit from being seen by society as white, we have seen how anti-Semitism sits at the core of white supremacist ideologies that put Jewish communities and communities of color at risk. This reminds us that we will ultimately find freedom from discrimination and injustice when all people experience that same liberation.

Freedom comes from transformation within the walls of our institutions and from consistent and persistent efforts to change our society’s policies and practices that perpetuate systemic racism in the realms of criminal justice, voting rights, education, health, and economic justice, among others. That recognition inspired the Reform Movement’s participation in efforts such as Nitzavim (our 2016 non-partisan voter registration, engagement and protection initiative), the 2015 Journey for Justice from Selma, Alabama to Washington DC in partnership with the NAACP and the launch of NFTY’s Racial Justice Campaign in 2017. It also motivates our tireless advocacy for racially-just federal policies, and local efforts our congregations have undertaken in partnership across lines of race, faith and class.

Clergy who have marched for justice, youth leaders who have raised the moral call for fairer sentencing, educators who have brought Jewish racial diversity into their curricula and countless others have shown us what it looks like to pursue racial justice. It is our responsibility to deepen and broaden that pursuit.

THEREFORE, the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to

  1. Affirm and celebrate the racial diversity of our Reform Jewish community;
  2. Engage our entire community, including our congregations, NFTY, camps, educational institutions and affiliates in the continued pursuit of racial justice in Jewish communal spaces and in public policy;
  3. Encourage institutions across the Reform Jewish Movement to create and implement a plan of action to take transformative internal steps in that pursuit, including, but not limited to:
    1. Reflecting on and discussing how racial justice is a core component of our Jewish values and identity;
    2. Thoughtfully examining the ways in which interpersonal, institutional, cultural and internalized racism impact us as individuals and as a community;
    3. Acting on our values and shared understandings to eliminate racism from our institutional structures and practices using resources developed by our Movement and other organizations that foster racial equity as a starting point;
    4. Honoring the wisdom and presence of Jews of color by working in multiracial collaboration to ensure the diversity of leadership structures, educational programming worship, social justice work and other aspects of Jewish communal life and removing impediments to this goal;
    5. Developing ways of appropriately and substantively reaching out to Jews and their family members of all racial backgrounds interested in Jewish communal life;
    6. Affirming our identity as a multiracial Reform Jewish community by reviewing our institutions’ programming, education and communications and making necessary changes to ensure that they reflect the racial diversity of our community; and
  4. Intensify our ongoing efforts across the Reform Movement to act in deep partnership across lines of race to work for systemic changes that will create a racially just world, including, but not limited to:
    1. Reforms to policing that reduce racial disparities and provide for the safety and vitality of both communities and the officers that serve them;
    2. Policies that reduce the mass incarceration of people of color and provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reentry to those convicted of a crime;
    3. Policies that protect the right to vote from discrimination based on race; and
    4. Policies that promote racial justice in education.

[1] Jews of color is a pan-ethnic term that may be used to identify Jews whose family origins are originally in African, Asian or Latin-American countries. Jews of color may identify as Black, Latino, Asian-American or of mixed heritage such as biracial or multi-racial. Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews from North African and Arab lands vary in whether they self-identify as “Jews of color.”