February 4, 2021
To our Temple Israel community,

As a congregation, we are working together to act, demonstrate, and ensure that we value and respect every person within our community and beyond. We are pleased to share Temple Israel's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism with you.  

Love your neighbor as yourself, v’ahavata l’rei-echa kamocha.

This verse of our Torah, (Leviticus 19:18), is foundational for why we do what we do. Loving kindness, caring about others, and committing ourselves to lift up and protect each other’s humanity is our righteous pursuit.  

Eighteen months ago on Yom Kippur, Rabbi Zecher challenged the congregation to transform our community and our individual selves to examine our culture and foster an awareness that would summon behavior change, one that would guarantee equity, diversity, and inclusion and move us closer to erasing bias and racism.  

This transformation takes intention and recognition, not only for what is external, but also for what is within. It is a practice, just as compassion, matter-ness, justice, learning, and nurturing the spirit are. They are tied together as part of what it means to be connected to and responsible for one another within the Temple Israel orbit and beyond. They are fundamental to our mission and values and intrinsic to Judaism.  

These are not new endeavors for Temple Israel. Over the past five years, leaders of our Racial Justice Initiative have opened many ways to pursue righteousness in the community, including the support of Black-owned businesses, volunteering with Partakers: College Behind Bars, working for criminal justice reform, fighting voter suppression, and more.  

As we move forward, we stand on the shoulders of those who had already set this vision in motion. Embedded in the history of our congregation is the deeply-held commitment to the work of justice, both within and outside our walls. Decades ago, this synagogue reached out and engaged Gay and Lesbian Jews who were seeking a spiritual home where they could belong. Our rabbis and members made it possible for Temple Israel to be that home for LGBTQ Jews. Then, it was controversial. People felt unsure. Now, we have a Board President who was an early pioneer for LGBTQ inclusion. At the time, we knew we were doing sacred work, but we could not predict just how much richer our community would be for it.

The embrace continued with extraordinary efforts for Soviet Jewry, Vietnamese refugees, and more recently for Syrian refugees when more than 500 people in our congregation engaged in an effort to resettle a family in Boston. A unifying thread has run through all these efforts which connects us with our community partners, neighbors, and friends.

In this past year, we felt the anguish and rage for the systemic racism and bias that has plagued our nation’s history and caused degradation and murder. We have also witnessed egregious insurrection led by baseless hate, and we must now turn inward and examine ourselves. What are our responsibilities within our our own community? What must we reckon with inside our real and figurative walls? We ask ourselves, “What are we called to do?"  

The real life stories we have heard from our own Temple Israel members have exposed how much work we need to do within our own community.

It is our sacred task to take steps toward justice and holiness in our synagogue and in our homes. This pursuit of justice will take multiple steps.

We believe this statement is a crucial element in assuring that everyone within our Temple Israel orbit is a full part of our community. This statement moves us forward with specific actions.

Created and affirmed by our Board of Trustees, it recognizes our congregation’s involvement in these areas of justice and lays the foundation for our efforts to address these issues as a congregation moving forward.

If you would like to explore this document, included in full below, we have set up a number of sessions to discuss its content:

As we join together, let our words and our attitudes be in holy pursuit. Let us approach one another with respect and compose our questions with curiosity. Let us appreciate each other’s opinions even if they differ from our own. Let us pose clarifying questions rather than launch into assumptions. We can model the sacred, beloved community we seek for ourselves and beyond.
Rabbi Elaine Zecher
Senior Rabbi
Marc Maxwell
Board President
Temple Israel's Commitment to
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism
At Temple Israel, “Living Judaism Together” means that we acknowledge, welcome, and honor each individual in our community for who they are. We celebrate our community’s diversity in personal identities and lived experiences. Living Judaism Together through “righteous impact” means that we work actively as a community to combat racism, bigotry, bias, and hatred in our own Temple, our city, our state, and our country and ensure that each individual and group is included and treated equitably.

People in our country suffer from inequities along many dimensions, including race, country of origin, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. These inequities are manifest in employment, education, housing, the criminal justice system, health care, and other areas.

We note particularly that our nation was established by stealing land from Indigenous people. From our nation’s origin to the present day, racism and white supremacy have persisted. The murders of Black people by police remind us of how we, as individuals, have failed by not challenging this racist system and how institutionalized racist policies target Black people, often with severe consequences.

As we have reviewed our core values, we realize that Temple Israel, like our society, has missed the mark.

  • Temple Israel believes in encountering the sacred through relationships, yet not everyone has been included.
  • Temple Israel believes in embracing Torah in all its dimensions as an enduring source for inquiry, discovery, and inspiration, yet the resounding call to pursue justice and equity has not always been heeded.
  • Temple Israel believes in exploring spirituality and innovating Judaism’s traditions of ritual and prayer, yet White and Ashkenazi norms have narrowed that vision and practice.
  • Temple Israel believes in pursuing justice in partnership with others to realize a vision of what the world ought to be, yet more work remains to translate that vision into action.
  • Temple Israel is committed to a love of Israel and the vitality, peace, and well-being of all who live there, yet has not done enough to lift up the history, culture, and experience of everyone who calls that land home.
  • Temple Israel draws strength from diversity and wisdom from all who walk through our open door, yet the Temple has fallen short by not undertaking broad-based antiracism work.

Temple Israel has an unwavering commitment to equity and justice for all. We intend to act to fight racism, create more opportunities for people of color, and become more inclusive. This requires listening to a diversity of perspectives, openness to ideas that might agitate our assumptions, and welcoming all those who support our mission and values.

Guided by our core values, we reach for teshuva and resolve to do better. This moment demands more than an apology and a statement. This moment demands action.

The Board acknowledges and thanks Tikkun Central’s Racial Justice Initiative for its early and thoughtful leadership in the area of antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Building on this work, acknowledging that this work is difficult and that we will make errors along the way, and with the understanding that we will revisit this list periodically and update it as appropriate, we commit now to the following actions:

  1. Providing antiracism and antibias training for all clergy, staff, lay leaders, the Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, the Religious School, The Tent, and security contractors and providing opportunities for such training to congregants.
  2. Ensuring that pathways to Temple membership and leadership include non-White and non-Ashkenazi people and that members of the nominating committee are committed to elevating such members to the Board and the Leadership Council.
  3. Reviewing and updating all Temple programming and committees to ensure that the voices of non-White and non-Ashkenazi people are included and honored.
  4. Ensuring diverse backgrounds among our invited guests, speakers, and teachers and encouraging the Talmudic tradition of healthy debate and perspective.
  5. Reviewing and updating employment policies and practices, including all aspects of recruitment, hiring, evaluation, and advancement, to ensure that they embody the values of antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  6. Reviewing and updating all Temple Israel documents and communications to ensure that they embody the values of antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  7. Requesting clergy to ensure that their messaging through sermons, ritual, teaching, and public appearances demonstrates antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  8. Continuing and expanding the Temple’s purchasing from businesses owned by Black people and people from other underrepresented groups and encouraging members to redirect their own purchasing and that of their businesses.
  9. Adding fields to our membership database system that could gather the racial and cultural identities of our members and encourage all members to self-identify their racial and cultural identities so that the Temple can better understand the richness of the community.
  10. Making available financial resources and staff time to ensure that these commitments can and will be fulfilled.

We note with appreciation that the President of the Board will appoint a temporary Working Group, composed of Board members, leaders of the Racial Justice Initiative, and others, to work with Rabbi Slipakoff to review these commitments and recommend:

  • the details of what should be done;
  • who should take the lead and who should be involved;
  • an appropriate time frame for implementation;
  • the metrics used to evaluate progress;
  • an appropriate means for ongoing monitoring, including means to report failures anonymously and mechanisms to correct them;
  • lines of communication from members and others in the community to provide feedback to TI leadership as other areas of improvement are identified;
  • opportunities for collaboration with related, on-going efforts, and
  • financial requirements, if any.

Rabbi Slipakoff and the Working Group will provide a preliminary report to the Board at its second meeting following approval of this statement and then continue to help monitor the implementation of these commitments and shape an agenda for further action.
For more information, please feel free to connect with Rabbi Dan Slipakoff or Tali Puterman.