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Racial Justice Initiative

“It is upon me to receive the mitzvah of the Creator, to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our Mission

The Racial Justice Initiative (RJI) was formed in 2016 to provide opportunities to deepen our understanding of how racism impacts our economic, social and justice systems, and how we can work together to address these racial inequities.

The Legacy of Racism

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that the median net worth of a black family in Boston was $8.50 compared to $247,500 for a white family.
  • People of color are 7 times more likely to be imprisoned than whites—1/15 African American men vs. 1/106 white men. By the age of 14, approximately 25% of African American children have experienced a parent being imprisoned for some period of time, compared to 4% of white children.
  • Public school segregation is worst in the Northeastern states, with schools serving the largest African American populations severely underfunded and underperforming. In Boston, black and brown children often perform two grades below their white peers.
  • While the majority of the nation are homeowners, people of color are much less likely to own their own homes than whites—71.9% vs 42.3%.

Our Guiding Principles

Reflect: Deepen congregants’ understanding of racism through increased awareness and knowledge of the historic and present systems in our society that contribute to racial inequities.​
Relate: Develop collaborative relationships within the Jewish community and across people of different races to advance racial justice.
Reform: Affect meaningful change, at the local, state and national levels, to increase awareness, promote positive actions and create transformative public policies and legislation that advance racial equity. Areas of focus may include education, environmental justice, food insufficiency, health care, housing, law enforcement and criminal justice, voting rights, wealth creation and other issues that result in inequities.

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

Upcoming Events

Mar 14

Racial Justice Quarterly Meeting (Online)

Monday, March 14 | 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC-5
Jun 06

Racial Justice Quarterly Meeting (Online)

Monday, June 6 | 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC-5

View all upcoming RJI events

Reach Out

Ediss Gandelman
Sheri Kassirer

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Reflect (Education)

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

Ediss Gandelman

Relate (Direct Service)

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

Amy Benjamin

Reform (Action and Advocacy)

Engage in action and advocacy for legislative and other systemic change. 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.

Sheri Kassirer
Geoff Sherwood



Early in the U.S. pandemic, COVID-19 was dubbed “the
Great Equalizer,” a virus that exempted no one. But as
the pandemic has unfolded,
evidence mounts of its very unequal impact, with stark racial and socioeconomic disparities in morbidity and mortality.

Resoures for the “Unequal Impact of COVID-19” event

Slides from “Unequal Impact of COVID-19” presentation

Recording of “Unequal Impact of COVID-19” event

News & Updates

A Day On: MLK Day 2022

A Day On: MLK Day 2022

In accord with the sentiment of the late Congressman and friend of Dr. King, John Lewis, “The MLK holiday is a day on, not a day off.”

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