We began the semester by discussing personal examples of how we see racism playing out in our lives, and the teens often spoke about experiences they’ve witnessed or experienced in school, on public transit, or by peers. After much discussion on race as a social construction, we used our knowledge to formulate an understanding of white privilege. Through curriculum on the Bystander Effect, we discussed the importance of white American Jews being allies, not bystanders. Questions like “do white American Jews, often also with socio-economic privilege, have more of a responsibility to be allies, and how can we reconcile a history of both persecution and achievement?” allowed us to dive deep into powerful, emotional dialogues with each other. We then watched a compelling new documentary by anti-racist activist Tim Wise titled “White Like Me: Race, Racism, and White Privilege in America.” Modern day themes included an analysis of the prison industrial complex, the War on Drugs, and whether we live in a “post-racial” society due to the election of President Obama. We additionally learned a lot about the history of institutionalized racism in the United States post-WWII, due to the GI Bill and other laws giving racial preference to white people.
By far, the most amazing part of our course if the safe, open, and collaborative community that has been created to facilitate honest, difficult discussions. A couple of teens have reported back that this is the only space they have to critically think about white privilege, racism, and tie these concepts into their forming Jewish identities. As we finish the semester, we will focus more on studying American Jewish activists (Anne Braden, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, etc) - both current and in the past - who spoke out against discrimination.
Contact Midrasha Co-Directors Mark Deutsch and Debra Marx at (510)501-6692