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    Section Four

    Welcome to the Fourth & Final Section of Our

    Confessions of the Heart Racial Equity Challenge!


    You've spent some serious time courageously exploring our individual and collective capacity for growth, healing and change. (If you're new, welcome! Start with sections one, two, and three.) Take a deep breath and get ready to finish this challenge with your last set of prompts.

    These prompts on the BIPOC, Sephardi/Mizrachi, JOC Learning Track were crafted by the Jewish Emergent Network's Rabbi Mira Rivera (Romemu) and Ammud JOC Torah Academy's Arielle Korman.


    These prompts on the White Jews Learning Track were crafted by six of the rabbis from the Jewish Emergent Network communities: Rabbi Sharon Brous (IKAR), Rabbi Deena Cowans (Mishkan), Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie (Lab/Shul), Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer (The Kitchen), Rabbi Scott Perlo (Romemu), and Rabbi Shira Stutman (Sixth & I).


    Reminder About The Prompts...
    1. Make an Appointment with Yourself: Please plan to set aside between 20-30 minutes each day you engage with the "Confessions of the Heart" resources.

    2. Create a Space for Yourself: It will be helpful for you to find a quiet place daily where you feel comfortable reading, watching, listening and paying attention to what comes up for you as you move through each day's prompts.

    3. Your journal is your friend: Use your journal to write down any feelings, reflections that emerge from your engagement of the resources--big or small. Your journal will offer you a map for growth as we move forward.

    4. Build support around you: Schedule weekly 15-minute appointments with your racial equity listening partner so that they can joyfully witness, support and celebrate your growth with you. A good question for this listening partnership might be: What are you learning right now and how is it connecting to your life?
    Reminder About Differentiated Tracks…
    To uphold equity in our learning approach, we have included both white and Black, Indigenous, Sephardi/Mizrachi POC learning tracks. These differentiated learning tracks are meant to support you in getting to the heart of what comes up for you racially when engaging in anti-racist work. If you're excited for this challenge but are not sure which track to choose, try answering the following questions:

    1. When asked, how do you identify racially?
    2. When not asked, how are you perceived racially “on the street”? (i.e. how do others perceive you will relate to how you experience and navigate systems?)
    3. In an anti-racism learning group, where would you go to be challenged by others without overburdening them? Where would you go because of a shared affinity/lived experience/identity with others?
    4. Which learning track feels most aligned with your answers to 1-3?

    Don't Forget The Al Chet...
    Yavilah McCoy's powerful adaptation of the Al Chet/Confession liturgy offers a frame for this challenge, so take a few minutes to read it if you haven't yet.


    Let's continue the journey...

  • Al Chet Section Four

    For the sins we have committed through turning Black bodies into objects of lust and sexual gratification.


    For the sins of racism we have committed through haughty demeanor and proud looks.

    For the sins of racism we have committed through the glances of our eyes.

    For the sins of racism we have committed through passing judgement.

    For the sins of racism that we have committed through baseless hatred.

    For the sins of racism that we have committed through turning a blind-eye

    to pain and suffering around us.

    For the sins of racism that we have committed by not seeing racism as an evil among us.


    Neither the Jewish Emergent Network nor Dimensions are directly endorsing any of the artists, healers, diverse teachers of faith, or other content creators whose work is linked in this challenge. We are sharing the world of spirit equitably with many people as we endeavor to learn more about our need to work together across diverse faith communities to dismantle racism and white supremacy for us all.​

  • Prompt One

    For the sins of racism we have committed through haughty demeanor and proud looks.

  • White Jews Learning Track


    From Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie (Lab/Shul)

    It was the first day of the Jewish New Year, back in 1986. I was 16 years old, and that’s when my eyes opened, for the first time, maybe way too late but just on time, to my white privilege, to how racial difference was not talked about, but whispered, with suspicion and disdain, in the Ashkenazi Orthodox Jewish community where I lovingly grew up.


    We lived in Jerusalem and on that afternoon I walked to the Silwan village in East Jerusalem, where the ancient Shiloach spring, the bedrock of Zion, still sings its clear cold waters. Back then, many religious Jews from all over town would walk down to the spring to shed our sins on the new year, performing the ritual of Tashlich - casting out our past. We walked by Palestinian residents, oblivious to the plight that will erupt as the first Intifada only one year later. But this was not the only oblivion transgression of the day.


    I had a guest with me, my friend M., an American Orthodox Jew of Color, studying in a Yeshiva for the year. I noticed some looks from others who walked along us, but gave them no notice. Or did I choose not to? We were two Jewish teens, good friends, chatting away on the long walk there and back, meeting many other friends along the way.


    The phone calls started after the holiday. Concerned neighbors and folks from the congregation who wanted to make sure my parents knew, and who was that, and is M. Jewish, and all of that..


    My mother told me about the calls, more bewildered than angry. M. Was a beloved guest in our home and the ‘good neighbors’ were considered busy-bodies not to be concerned about.


    But I remember thinking - this is what it’s like to be considered different, to be seen as other, to be talked about. No wonder I stayed in the gay closet - a privilege I had and still have today - for a few more years after that.


    But I did not speak up. I didn’t bring this up with M. Not then, and not since. I was embarrassed. My silence was part of the pact.


    We lost touch over the years. But I remember that Rosh Ha’Shana day that has helped to make me who I am, committed to less silence and more visible, loud, loving words of protest, or support, words and gestures of presence for each of us in divine image exactly as we are.


    I choose to be silent as I take on daily contemplation, mindful of the privilege of breath, of life. And it’s my choice to not be silent when the breath of life, the dignity of friends and kin, of others in my world, is routinely attacked and denied.


    I invite you to read the short reflection by one of my meditation teachers, Oren Jay Sofer, about the power of returning, again and again, like breath, like these holy days, like our moral duty - to the sacred work of showing up.


    READ: How I Continue To Mess Up Being An Ally by Oren Jay Sofer

    Black, Indigenous, Sephardi/Mizrachi and More Broadly Identified Jews of Color Learning Track


    In our morning prayers we say: Utnenu hayom uv’chol yom l’chen ul’e’chesed v’rachamim, be’eineikha uv’einei kol roeinu - May we find grace, love, and compassion in Your sight and in the sight of all who look upon us. But when have you eye-balled another and predetermined why, what and how much of our heritage they should access? When have you regarded our ritual objects with love, yet spread out a tallit prayer shawl, for example, to bar others from sitting in your pew, or some such parallel action? When have you dissuaded someone from pursuing higher Jewish learning because in your eyes, they are not up to the task, or they did not have proper background, etc.? What messages have you internalized about space in Jewish community, taking up, claiming space?

  • Prompt Two


    For the sins of racism we have committed through the glances of our eyes.

  • White Jews Learning Track


    From Rabbi Scott Perlo (Romemu)


    For the times we crossed the street;

    For the glances we threw over our shoulder;

    For the neighborhoods where we locked our cars as we drove through.


    For the way we followed with our eyes in a store, in a mall, on our block;

    For the looks: do they belong here? what are they doing here? should I call the police?

    For the stares.


    For the too-wide smiles;

    For “not seeing color” because we had let no people of color in to be seen;

    For “can you help me,” when they didn’t work in the store.


    For the discomfort;

    For asking, “where are your parents from?”

    For suddenly changing the way we talk.


    For all the things we “saw”;

    For all the things we never saw;

    For all the “concern”;

    For everything we could never bother to be concerned about;

    Hatanu; avinu; pashanu. We have sinned; we have strayed; we have committed crimes.

    Black, Indigenous, Sephardi/Mizrachi and More Broadly Identified Jews of Color Learning Track 

    REFERENCE: The Power in Our Eyes Source Sheet by Rabbi Mira Rivera




    To those sins of racism through the glances of eyes

    by Rabbi Mira Rivera (Romemu)


    I close my eyes and lift up in thought


    above body outline

    Below, my drained body traced onto earth

    Had I been found unidentified

    moved somewhere forgotten

    Cover me in a rainbow of Post-its

    Tell me what you are not telling me

    Don’t say that I no longer have need for X


    X marks where I worked so hard to

    build rationale for belonging


    Primping, posturing to be heard,

    desired only where patrones factored

    utility of me for planning, raising,

    funding Spirit


    Yes, Spirit


    If only someone else paid for it in a

    pact with powers that be


    What if I refuse to no longer serve


    Sensible one, would you care for me?


    No running with nowhere to run


    Marathon of rainbow Post-its litter my body outline


    Below: affirmations, confirmations, pledges of

    accountability to Self


    Landing each and every which way


    Goodbye anonymity, hello neon colors


    Stretching in full regalia of self


    I am waving arms and torso in the air


    “Good point there, but we don’t time for that right now.”


    “How about we put that in the parking lot?”


    “We have sooooo much to cover.”


    “I hear you, I really do but...”


    Twenty years I waited curiously for when might the

    “right time” be for that which you refuse to see


    I am claiming my time

    Stealing back my right

    Teasing out the thicket

    Teaching ourSelves


    Torah truth of Power of Two versus your power of

    corporate one

    Two mythical days I need to recover from salvos

    If only it was just two

    O to be a giant Membrane Sieve Mesh Container Kli

    to hold courage and overgrown scars

    Claiming Our Time, Our Space, Our Torah


    SanKoFa bird, arch back to Ko in order to go Fa


    Arch back to know


    We hear what We want and need

    for my liberation is tied to your liberation

    And your liberation is my liberation


    Hearing OurStories puts a chill in my bones


    even as memory heats up my ears


    of a chair being thrown at my Sister Teacher in a


    seminary of all places because she dared to call IT


    “Errors were made” - Is that teshuvah?


    When we know, we all know


    “No one knows who she is”


    Punch me in my diaphragm that we should know her name


    No time to waste


    Life is no day job


    “Boz del Puevlo, Boz del Sielo”


    “Voice of the People, Voice of Heaven” is no ditty to add

    diversity to your festivity


    “A time has come when silence is betrayal” is no shtick


  • Prompt Three

    For the sins of racism we have committed through passing judgement.


    For the sins we have committed through turning Black bodies into objects of lust and sexual gratification.

  • White Jews Learning Track

    For the sins we have committed through turning Black bodies into objects of lust and sexual gratification.



    From Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer (The Kitchen)

    On Day I of Rosh Hashanah, we read the painful story of Hagar, Sara, and Avraham, where the politics of patriarchy, slavery, and reproductive oppression take root in our family tree. When we chant their story on the New Year, whose eyes are we seeing through? Whose voice are we listening to? In Sisters in the Wilderness, Womanist theologian Delores S Williams teaches what it means to listen to Hagar's voice. To really listen to the one who survived slavery, rape, and reproductive injustice; to the only person in the 5 Books of Moses to give God a new name. Hear Hagar's voice echoed today in the voices of Black women calling for Reproductive Justice, seeking to 'liberate and emancipate vulnerable populations from all forms of reproductive and sexual oppression'. Shema b'kolah--Listen to her voice. Amplify her voice.


    READ: Intro/chapter 1: Hagar's Story: A Route to Black Women's Issues from Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk by Delores S. Williams


    ENGAGE in Reproductive Justice: Learn about the work of Sister Reach, and/or find a Reproductive Justice organization near you.


    LISTEN: to La Femme Fetal by the Digable Planets


    LISTEN: to Hagar by Pharaoh's Daughter, with Michal Cohen

    Black, Indigenous, Sephardi/Mizrachi and More Broadly Identified Jews of Color Learning Track 

    For the sins of racism we have committed through passing judgement.



    When have you adopted a certain demeanor and tone of voice toward one who can advance your aspiration? When have you then pivoted around, behaved in the opposite way toward another, assuming they could never impact you positively or negatively in any way, that there will be no consequences at all since there are no witnesses (and even if there were witnesses, events will unfold as though there were none)? When have you dissuaded someone from pursuing higher Jewish knowledge because in your eyes, they are not up to the task, “they will feel uncomfortable, they will not fit”?



    From Mahzor Lev Shalem: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2010), page 315-316]



    Let us speak of the sacred power of this day - profound and awe-inspiring. On it, Your sovereignty is celebrated, and Your throne, from which You rule in truth, is established with love. Truly, You are Judge and Prosecutor, Expert, and Witness, completing the indictment, bringing the case, and enumerating the counts. You recall all that is forgotten, and will open the book of remembrance, which speaks for itself, for our own hands have signed the page.


    The great shofar will be sounded and the still small voice will be heard.

    Angels will be alarmed, seized with fear and trembling, declaring, “This very day is the Day of

    Judgment” - for even the hosts of heaven are judged; no one is innocent in Your sight.

    All that lives on earth will pass before You like a flock of sheep.

    As a shepherd examines the flock, making each sheep pass under the staff, so You will review and never and count, judging each living being determining the fate of everything in creation, inscribing their destiny.


    How many will pass on, and how many will be born;

    Who will live and who will die;

    Who will live a long life and who will come to an untimely end;

    Who will perish by fire and who by water;

    Who by sword and who by beast;

    Who by hunger and who by thirst;

    Who by earthquake and who by plague.

    Who will be strangled and who will be stoned;

    Who will be at peace and who will be troubled;

    Who will be serene and who will be disturbed;

    Who will be tranquil and who will be tormented;

    Who will be impoverished and who will be enriched;

    Who will be brought low, and who will be raised up.


    But Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzdakah have the power to transform the harshness of our destiny.



    Reflection on Unetaneh Tokef by Leonard Gordon

    Most of us prefer to deny the unruliness of our fragility. But the facts on this list in Unetaneh Tokef are inescapable: some will get sick, some will be born; there will be deaths by hunger and in wars. The liturgy begs us to pay attention to these plain facts. And we all know that if we haven’t yet suffered an unbearable loss, one year, such a grief will permanently scar our hearts, or we will suffer yet another death that we cannot bear. We hope that we will live to see another year, but we know that without a doubt, certainly, definitely, and absolutely, a year will surely come that will break the pattern. That destiny is mysterious in its details, but death is our destiny, the fate of every person we know and love. Everyone dies, somehow and some time.


    We are not praying to be spared an ending in death. We are not even asking that death be postponed. Rather, after reminding ourselves relentlessly of the many ways that life might end, we tell ourselves that the way to cope with ultimate vulnerability is through teshuvah (“returning”, an element of atoning for our sins), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah (moral behavior, also charitable giving to right the wrong). Our goal is not security, but a life of meaning that recognizes our vulnerability but rises beyond it.

  • Prompt Four

    For the sins of racism that we have committed through baseless hatred.

  • White Jews Learning Track


    From Rabbi Sharon Brous (IKAR)

    When Bryan Stevenson pulled into the parking lot of a prison for a legal visit, he saw a pickup truck with Confederate flag plates and guns. A bumper sticker read: IF I’D KNOWN IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS, I’D HAVE PICKED MY OWN DAMN COTTON. As he entered the prison, a white guard with a confederate flag tattooed on his arm strip-searched and humiliated him, violating protocol for legal visits. The guard told Stevenson that the truck outside was his.


    Stevenson was there to meet with Avery, a Black mentally ill man serving time for murder. As he researched Avery’s story, he found that he had been passed from one abusive foster home to another, 19 in his first eight years. He suffered unthinkable physical and emotional abuse, which Stevenson ultimately presented in a multi-day hearing before a judge. After the hearing, when Stevenson returned to the prison, the same guard, the one with the truck, approached him. He said he had been in court during the hearing and heard the stories about Avery’s life.


    “It was kind of difficult for me to be in that courtroom to hear what y’all was talking about,” the guard said. “I came up in foster care too… Man, I didn’t think anybody had it as bad as me. They moved me around like I wasn’t wanted nowhere. I had it pretty rough. But listening to what you was saying about Avery made me realize that there were other people who had it as bad as I did. I guess even worse… I got so angry coming up that there were plenty of times when I really wanted to hurt somebody, just because I was angry… Sitting in that courtroom brought back memories, and I think I realized how I’m still kind of angry.”


    Sinat hinam, gratuitous hatred, they say, was the cause of the destruction of the Beit haMikdash (Yoma 9b), our holiest site. It came in the form of not only cruelty, but also cowardice. It was rooted in a willful dismissiveness of other people’s humanity, and it permeated all aspects of the society. It became so normative, and so toxic, that it destroyed the community from within.


    The only way out of sinat hinam is deep reflection and behavioral transformation. The guard in the story held in his heart unexamined, gratuitous hatred. It was rooted in his own pain, his own trauma, and it manifested in acts of cruelty toward others that felt fully justified to him. It was only when he listened, when he stretched open his heart, that he was able to see Avery’s humanity for the first time. And doing so freed him, too. He softened. He shifted from anger to tenderness. When the hatred dissipated, he was only a man, who had once been a small child who had also suffered abandonment and abuse. And Avery was a victim of the same abuse, deserving of his compassion.

    We may not wear our hatred tattooed on our arms or our bumper stickers, but I wonder how willing we are to consider the unexamined, gratuitous hatred in our own hearts? What would it take for us to own that hatred, to acknowledge and reckon with it, so that we might one day be released from its grips?


    The Rabbis suggest that the way to counter sinat hinam is ahavat hinam—senseless, gratuitous, open-hearted. Love that’s rooted in the awareness that the other is, like you, an image of the Holy One. Not only does the work of eradicating the sinat hinam in our hearts invite us into a kind of softness toward the other, and toward ourselves, but it may be the only way our fractured society can release itself from the stranglehold of racism and together finally begin to build a different kind of future.


    READ: Chapter 10 of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, available here or at any independent bookstore.

    Black, Indigenous, Sephardi/Mizrachi and More Broadly Identified Jews of Color Learning Track 


    When have you heard calls for alternatives to the race dialogue? “Why don’t we discuss climate change instead?” “Isn’t the problem really socio-economic disparity?” “Why do we have to talk about race again and again?” “I feel attacked each time.” “When have we felt derailed time and again by this race thing?” They ask us to speak about how we experience racism, and when we do, they get furious. What? I was sitting minding my own business when...



    On Baseless Hatred (Sinat Chinam) In Our Sacred Texts, a source sheet by Rabbi Mira Rivera.

  • Prompt Five


    For the sins of racism that we have committed through turning a blind-eye

    to pain and suffering around us.

  • White Jews Learning Track


    From Rabbi Shira Stutman (Sixth & I)

    These last few months, many white Americans have acknowledged and been forced to confront what we’ve long known to be true, which is that our understanding of what makes us feel “secure” is based on a lot of assumptions that are not shared by people of color, and especially indigenous, Black and brown people. This admission is certainly true in the white Jewish community, which experiences policing in America in ways arguably unparalleled in Jewish history. Many white American Jews understand police as a force that keeps us safe; when there is a shooting at a synagogue, Jewish museum, Jewish Federation or JCC, police run towards the scene of the crime in order to offer assistance (in some cases they were already there, hired by the community as an added layer of “security'") and not away. And it bears saying that this is not only in our imagination, that this is factually true, that whenever there is even a hint of an uptick in public antisemitism in DC, local police are in touch with Sixth & I almost immediately with offers of help and protection.


    One of the most complicated parts of discernment, however, is recognizing that two things can be true at the same time: that DC police can protect Sixth & I as an institution and members of the police force--and policing as an institution itself--can terrorize Black and brown people, including Black and brown Jews. That some of the very same “protectors” whose presence make me, a white person, exhale with relief, cause BIPOC to inhale with fear. And that even though I feel safe when I see a police car outside our building, no Jew is truly safe until we have eradicated white supremacy in all its forms, including not only antisemitism but also anti-Black racism, not only in the streets but also in our government.


    It’s all true. But until I decentered my own experience as a white person, and instead centered the experiences of people of color, I just couldn’t (wouldn’t?) comprehend what I needed to comprehend. I couldn’t see what I needed to see.


    Perhaps even more honest, God forgive me--seriously, on these days of teshuva please God, forgive me--I have known for some time that there were many people of color who did not feel as safe as I did, whose reaction when they were driving and saw the police lights behind them was not “oh damn I’m going to be late for my meeting” but instead “oh damn what if they shoot?” But there already seemed to be so little time in the day. How could I possibly begin to piece together this complicated puzzle?


    And then I heard George Floyd call out for his mother as he was being murdered, and, as we read in the Rosh Hashanah Torah reading, “God opened [my] eyes and I saw.” And I understood: by refusing to bear witness to the agony of others, and by putting only my own personal experience and needs at the center of my narrative, I was complicit in the terror. Until the words “serve and protect” are true for the way that police treat all of us, I have no right to stand down.


    In 5781, may we not turn a blind-eye to pain and suffering around us.



    Seeing White, podcast suggested by Imani Chapman:

    For hundreds of years, the white-dominated American culture has raised the specter of the dangerous, violent black man. Host John Biewen tells the story of a confrontation with an African American teenager. Then he and recurring guest Chenjerai Kumanyika discuss that longstanding image – and its neglected flipside: white-on-black violence.

    Black, Indigenous, Sephardi/Mizrachi and More Broadly Identified Jews of Color Learning Track 


    Are we accountable to calls for accountability, not just to our immediate Jewish community but to the larger community of human beings? Are we to be a healing balm for all or just for our own people? In your journal, describe a time when you have felt held in your Jewishness, when someone heard your story and actually said, “Yes. Tell me more” rather than “Yes, but that is just YOUR experience.” What feelings came up for you in these experiences? Experiences where you felt held? What about experiences where you didn’t feel held? If you felt pain, where did that pain end up? If you felt anger, where was it directed?



    Jewish Groups Reassess Their Shortcomings on Race


  • Prompt Six

    For the sins of racism that we have committed by not seeing racism as an evil among us.

  • White Jews Learning Track


    From Rabbi Deena Cowans (Mishkan)

    In 2011, I was working at a small non-profit that provided legal services for immigrants and refugees who were incarcerated and facing deportation. The majority of our clients were Latinx, and came into immigration custody after being pulled over by the police while driving. As part of our intake, we had to ask what they were arrested for. Some said they were arrested for “driving without a license”. Others said they were never actually charged with a crime, they were just handed over to ICE after the police scanned the system for their immigration status.


    Another client, a refugee from Sudan, was arrested for trespassing at a drugstore; he was waiting for the pharmacy to open before he went to work. He saw the lights on and the pharmacist at the counter, so he knocked on the locked door; the cops came and arrested him for trespassing.


    As a white woman, I couldn’t imagine being pulled over just for driving without a license; didn’t the police need some reason to ask for my ID? And I am sure if I had knocked on that drugstore door before the store opened, the pharmacist would have come over to talk to me. It quickly became clear: my clients were pulled over for existing in America while black or brown.


    I spent a lot of time that year ranting to anyone who would listen about how cops were getting away with blatant racial profiling. And then I moved, started a new job, and stopped talking about racism in American policing.


    The same pattern repeated itself over the next few years. I would get fired up about something I saw in my work, and then that frustration would fade when I moved on to the next job or place. My anger over the ways I witnessed the evils of racism was real. But in the last nine years, have I been consistent in my anti-racist work? If I have to get real with myself, the answer is no.


    I saw racism in individual areas or moments, but I did not commit to seeing racism as an ever-present, systemic evil. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described racism as a “treacherous denial of the existence of God”. Yet many of us have tried to insist that racism is not a religious concern.


    In recognizing this sin, how can we commit to calling out the evils of racism even when these stories fade from our social media or news headlines?


    LISTEN: Code Switch podcast: A Decade of Watching Black People Die


    READ: How to Make Sure Your Anti-Racism Work Is A Lifelong Endeavor


    Black, Indigenous, Sephardi/Mizrachi and More Broadly Identified Jews of Color Learning Track 

    LISTEN: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s The Three Evils of Society


    REFLECT: We came together, three generations of women who now identify as non-Black People of Color. Our parents came from other lands to this country for refuge, for that second and third chance. We asked these questions posed to us by our Black siblings: How did attitudes of anti-Blackness find its way into my own upbringing? What is my role today in the larger communities of Jews of Color and People of Color? How do I stand with Black and brown siblings when some of us are lighter skinned?

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