Racial Justice

"To simply acknowledge past transgressions is not enough; we must also pledge to not repeat them...talking about race and taking action to respond to racism allows us to prevent history from repeating itself." - Rabbi Philip Sherman, in his Rosh Hashanah Sermon. To watch his sermon in full, please click here.

Click here to read our mission and guiding principles. 

Click here to see a helpful list of questions and answers about the GBIO Criminal Justice Reform campaign.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our co-leaders Sheri Kassirer or Ediss Gandelman

Upcoming Events 

Rikers: An American Jail Film & Discussion
Sunday, April 7, 6:30 pm
Temple Beth Elohim, 10 Bethel Rd, Wellesley

The United States is facing a crisis of mass incarceration with more than 2.2 million people packed into its jails and prisons. Rikers: An American Jail is a riveting documentary from Bill Moyers that focuses on former detainees whose searing testimonials describe the deep-seated culture of systemic violence and corruption that has plagued the notorious NYC jail for decades. 

Featured in the documentary is Rev. Hector “Benny” Custodio who will join Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, Partakers Executive Director Arthur Bembury and the film's Executive Producer Judy Doctoroff for a panel discussion following the film.

The  film and panel will highlight the crisis of mass incarceration which disproportionately affects people of color, and is an opportunity for the us to practice Tikkun Olam.        

Questions & RSVP: Ediss Gandelman, [email protected]



Racial Justice Initiative Subcommittees

Reflect (Education) Subcommittee      Chair:  Ediss Gandelman

Provide an educational framework to explore topics of interest to the committee and the broader TBE community. Potential activities could include: films, book clubs, book reviews, panels, performances.

Relate (Direct Service) Subcommittee  Chair:  Amy Benjamin

Provide direct service opportunities that allow members to develop sustained, meaningful relationships with individuals and communities most directly impacted by racism and racial injustice. Our first proposed project is Partakers “College Behind Bars” Mentoring program, which trains and matches church- and synagogue-based teams of volunteers with incarcerated men and women participating in the Boston University Prison Education Program.

Reform (Action and Advocacy) Subcommittee        Co-Chairs:  Sheri Kassirer and Geoff Sherwood

Engage in action and advocacy for legislative and other systemic change. For the past year TBE RJI has participated in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) Criminal Justice Reform campaign targeting the MA legislature. GBIO priorities include eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing, bail reform, reducing solitary confinement, and reducing/eliminating excessive fines. The subcommittee may identify other areas and opportunities for action and advocacy.


Mission and Guiding Principles


Racism remains a critical barrier for far too many people in America. Through our Jewish value of tikkun olam -- repairing the world -- the TBE community can engage in acts of loving kindness to understand and address racism and racial injustice through community building and social action.


To provide opportunities for the TBE community to further develop our understanding of how racism impacts our economic, social and justice systems and to engage in work to address these racial inequities. By participating in this work we hope to see our community transformed towards a deeper understanding and engagement with issues around racial justice. 

Guiding Principles

The following guiding principles will guide our racial justice activities:

Reflect: Work internally within our own community to deepen our understanding of the historical and present systems that contribute to racism.
Relate: Develop relationships within the Jewish community and across race with partners we can collaborate with to support racial justice efforts.
Reform: Take meaningful and powerful action with our partners in pursuit of policy changes to dismantle structural racism at all levels -- local, state and national -- and across all institutions and systems -- education, food, housing, law enforcement and criminal justice, media and wealth creation.

These principles are based on the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC)’s Racial Justice Campaign model.

הריני מקבל עלי
את מצות הבוֹרא
ואהבתה לרעך כמוֹך
Hareini m’kabel alai
et mitzvat ha’boreh
v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha
"It is upon me to receive the mitzvah of the Creator, to love your neighbor as yourself."



Past Events


Friday, January 18, 2019

Shabbat Shirah, celebrating the Israelites successful crossing of the Red Sea, fortuitously fell on the same weekend that TBE commemorated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rabbis Sherman & Saphire and Cantor Zell marked the occasion, as did congregant Ediss Gandelman (co-chair of TBE's Racial Justice Initiative) in a d’var torah. 

  1. Rabbi Philip Sherman's Sermon, 1-18-19
  2. Ediss Gandelman's presentation, 1-18-19
Tour of Old Jewish Boston and Why We Left
Tour of Old Jewish Boston
Sunday, May 6
Racial Justice Initiative Discussion: 
The Death of an American Jewish Community
Monday, May 7

From the turn of the 20th century through the 1960’s, the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan were thriving Jewish communities.  We explored famous landmarks—synagogues, the G&G Deli, Simco’s Restaurant—in a walking tour on to learn how federal, state and local housing policies contributed to the exodus to the suburbs and to Boston’s segregated neighborhoods. The following evening, we met to discuss the tour and the further explain what happened as described in Hillel Levine and Lawrence Harmon’s 1992 book, The Death of an American Jewish Community: A Tragedy of Good Intentions.

"13th" Film Screening and Conversation

May 11, 6:30pm

TBE's new racial justice initiative hosted a conversation and screening of 13th, a thought-provoking, Academy Award nominated, documentary that provides in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality.