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 notes on our past meetings 

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

Commemorating the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The deep partnership and friendship of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is captured in the famous photo of their arm-in-arm 1965 March on Selma. It is testimony to the shared values espoused by King and a cornerstone of Judaism: justice, equality, human dignity, and b’tzelem elohim—“in the image of God.” This year, the TBE community celebrates our commitment to these values with a number of activities and events over a ten-day period. In collaboration with clergy, Gan Elohim, Youth Learning, Havayah, Family Social Action Group and the Community of Adult Social Action (CASA), the Racial Justice Initiative offers something for everyone. We are instilling these values in our children through our K-12 learning programs.


Upcoming Events

Winter Walk
Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Winter Walk is an event raising funds and awareness towards an end to homelessness in Greater Boston. The event supports a number of service organizations that are working on prevention, support and care of Boston's homeless population.

It is a 2 mile walk through the streets of Boston that begins and ends on Copley Square. Walkers walk along side homeless and formerly homeless participants and then share a meal together while listening to stories of the Boston's homeless community. 100% of funds raised goes to partner organizations and supports critical programs. Join Temple Beth Elohim when registering ("Join a team" and search Temple Beth Elohim when signing up!)

Participants are asked to raise $100

Learn more: Sheri Kassirer, [email protected]





Community Read of White Fragility:  Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo
Tuesday, March 5, 7:00 pm

Join us as we explore Robin DiAngelo's groundbreaking work describing the dominant white's culture's role in maintaining racial bias in society - and how it can be changed.   The goal of this discussion is a step towards creating justice for a racial minority that has experienced unfair treatment since the founding of the United States of America. We will be led in the discussion by Dr. Kathy McDonough, an experienced guide with more than 15 years of experience supporting groups seeking to understand these systems, engage in critical self-reflection and work for justice.       

Learn more: Sheridan Kassirer, [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."


Meeting Notes

Click here to read the minutes for our May 24 2018 Quarterly Meeting

Click here to read the minutes for our May 7 2018 Quarterly Meeting

Click here to read the minutes for our March 5 2018 Quarterly Meeting

Click here to read the minutes of our December 17 2017 Quarterly Meeting.

Past Events


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.