Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

 

Justice, justice you shall pursue

צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף

 

As the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others drew national attention to police brutality and other symptoms of systemic racial oppression, we have felt and heard a sense of urgency from students, parents, alumni and staff to address the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) not only within our own school but also within society at large.
 
It is quite easy to imagine Representative John Lewis, several days before his death, sitting at his desk with supreme self-possession and a poignant lack of pretension, mindful of the words above from the Book of Deuteronomy as he penned the following: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what [Martin Luther King, Jr.] called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.” And it is with humility that we recognize our part. 
 
Our Spiritual Social Emotional Learning Task Force, dedicated to fortifying our students’ spiritual, social, and emotional needs and their Jewish identity, gave rise to a sub-group to focus on DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion. We have taken the following steps already to cultivate a deeper commitment to becoming a more inclusive, anti-racist school while remaining vigilant about anti-semitism:
 
The school leadership welcomes Frank Tow, long-time community member, who is working towards his Masters in Educational Psychology and School Leadership, as a Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
 
New policies are being included in our community handbook to support our students’ and faculty’s commitment to combat racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, bullying, religious prejudice and other acts of discrimination that have no place in our school.
 
Academic Departments have undertaken intensive self-examination and curriculum development this summer to enhance existing curricula and to elevate diverse perspectives and to promote civil discourse.
 
A cohort of faculty will participate in The National SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity), a professional learning opportunity for Barrack teachers. 
 
Student-faculty committees including the Derech Eretz Council, Culture Change, Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA), Students Combatting Racism, the Student Association, and Middle School Council are exploring how to help all students to feel honored and valued as full members of the Barrack Kehillah/community. Students are also developing a club devoted to anti-racism.
 
Rabbi Sandra Lawson sheds a contemporary light on a medieval commentator when she explains that the biblical commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” requires us to cultivate profound empathy just as Yonatan showed empathy toward David, “loving him as his own soul.” We aspire to bring our students to leverage this empathy and to appreciate that just as we have felt pain and just as we have sought justice as a minority in different times and places throughout the world, others are seeking it today and their needs and pain are equal to our own.  In this way, we can make “Black Lives Matter” more than just a slogan to our students.
 
We invite you to share in more conversation and self-reflection with us as we move forward. Our job as Jewish educators is to nurture tolerance, while we address systemic racial inequality, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of prejudice.