The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Repair the World have established a new leadership development program for white, early to mid-career communal leaders specifically dedicated to examining the impact of race and racism in our organizations and community. 

Grounded in Judaism’s values of tzelem Elokim (all people are created in the image of G!d), tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedakah (justice), this fellowship will assemble a cohort of individuals committed to bravely engaging in meaningful conversations about their own identities, privileges and experiences in service of building a more equitable and just community for all.

A rising consciousness about the legacy and effects of systemic racism has highlighted the need for each and every one of us to examine the specific role we play in perpetuating or addressing systems of oppression in our society. For this reason, Start Here is being intentionally designed for white Jews as a learning space to unpack and engage the particular ways that this identity, in terms of experiences of both privilege and struggle, frames the work we need to do and the role we can play as partners in the work of racial justice.

Start Here will be led and facilitated by nationally known consultant, researcher and leadership coach, Dr. Andrea Jacobs of Rally Point for Collaborative Change. A highly skilled trainer and educator, Dr. Jacobs brings more than 25 years of experience working in the Jewish community with a specific focus on anti-oppression education.

In launching this program, we are humbled by, and seek to lift up, the many voices within and beyond the Jewish community working to address racial disparity and oppression in our society. In particular, we recognize the work that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) folks have been doing for generations, and the leadership of Jews of Color in Detroit and throughout the country.  

Rabbi Ari Witkin

Speaking about the initiative, Rabbi Ari Witkin, Federation’s Director of Leadership Development, remarked that, “this program is one direct result of a year of learning and relationship building as we seek to continue advance our commitment to building a more just and equitable society. Though Federation has been engaged in the work of tikkun olam for more than 100 years, an overt effort to address systemic racism is a new endeavor for most of us. That is why we are starting with ourselves, looking internally to learn more about who we are, as individuals and an institution, and what our role has, is and can be as allies in the work of racial justice.”

Sarah Allyn, Repair the World’s Executive Director

Expanding on this, Sarah Allyn, Repair the World’s Executive Director, adds, “this fellowship is just one step in a long journey towards undoing the systems of racial oppression that are woven into the fabric of society. Our hope is that participants will not only have a profound experience of personal learning, but also begin to build a network and toolbox of skills they can use to further this work in their organizations and communities.”

The legacies and effects of racism are prevalent throughout our society. Undoing these structures requires our collective individual efforts and broad partnerships. Though this program is being administered by the Jewish Federation and Repair the World, its success will be the product of partnership and collaboration throughout the community. In particular, we are grateful for the support of the Max and Marjorie Fisher Foundation and the Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation in making this fellowship a reality.

Applications for Start Here are now open. Visit jewishdetroit.org/starthere

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