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 

Jews in the Civil Rights Movement with Yoni Kadden, Gann Academy
Mondays, September 9, 16, 23, 2019, 7:00-8:30 pm

Two of the enduring images of the Civil Rights Movement are of Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Martin Luther King, and of the brutal murders of Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Jews are indeed proud—and deservedly so—of their participation in the Civil Rights Movement. But these images capture only part of the story. In the South, particularly in the states in which the Civil Rights battles were occurring, many Jews had a different perspective on the movement. How then do we speak about “Jews in the Civil Rights Movement?”

TBE's Racial Justice Initiative seeks to increase our understanding and activism to address ongoing discrimination and inequity, and this course will provide historical perspective for our work today.                     


Learn more: Ediss Gandelman, [email protected]

RSVP: This class is FULL. Contact Lynn Burke, [email protected] to be added to the wait list

Civil Rights Journey
November 14-17, 2019
*NEW Trip Added:  November 21-24, 2019

With overwhelming response to November’s Civil Rights Journey, we are planning a second trip! The itinerary is the same as described below and in the attached schedule. As with the first trip, we need a minimum of 25 congregants (and a maximum of 50). Please see the information below and join us by registering today!

The Racial Justice Initiative’s exploration of the Civil Rights Movement, and particularly the Jewish community’s responses (then and now), continues with a journey to Atlanta, Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma. Our trip includes visits to the Rosa Parks Museum, Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and The King Center among other highlights. We will attend Shabbat services at Montgomery’s Temple Beth Or, and Sunday morning services at MLK’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. This trip builds on TBE’s September course, Jews and the Civil Rights Movement, although class attendance is not mandatory, but encouraged!

Racism is an insidious issue that continues to be manifested in US society some 50+ years post the Civil Rights marches and historic legislation. This tour of Southern landmarks, discussions with people who participated in marches with Dr. King, and visits to museums like the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum will deepen our understanding of the past and the ongoing struggles today.

View itinerary


Cost: $915+/pp

Learn more: 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.