Creating Welcoming and Inclusive Spaces
From our inception in 2011, one of our founding goals was radical inclusivity and the creation of affirming spaces where people could bring their whole selves. Our goal has always been to be a home for those who may have had a hard time seeing themselves represented in more traditional synagogues, which included young adults, people in interfaith partnerships or families, Jews of Color, LGBTQ+ people, people in different family constellations, single people, and spiritual seekers.
Tikkun, or healing and repairing what’s broken, has been an animating value at Mishkan from the beginning. Our rabbis on the bima and our volunteer-led justice teams, engaged in social justice work that included economic justice, public safety, refugee resettlement, affordable housing, reproductive rights, and sustainability. While racial equity is inextricably woven into all of those areas, it was in 2020 that we, along with so many other organizations, realized that it wasn’t enough to pursue justice for Black, Indigenous and People of Color out in our city. We were called to turn our focus on ourselves as an organization, and examine how we create welcoming and inclusive space here at Mishkan. While radical inclusivity was a core value, we were overdue for an honest internal inventory of how we could do better in pursuit of a truly diverse and inclusive Mishkan.
We recognized that it’s not enough simply to not be racist. We must actively create structures that facilitate equity, equality and dignity for all, both on our staff and in our community. So in 2020, we retooled our mission, our non-negotiables, and our community norms to better reflect actively anti-racist policies and standards. Additionally, we established a fund for programming that educates our community on issues of race, identity and bias, and expanded programming to feature more voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We overhauled our hiring and compensation practices with an intentional commitment to hiring talented, diverse voices to our team. We affirmed unambiguously that Black Lives Matter. We recognized that there was much work to be done internally to center Black, Indigenous and People of Color at Mishkan, and wanted to get to work right away. You can read more about that work below.
In 2021, we launched a study of our community, led by Dr. Gage Gorsky PhD, who helped lead the largest ever study of Jews of Color in the US. While it’s always been a goal to be a spiritual home for people of diverse backgrounds and identities, we’ve never had the opportunity to assess how we’re doing at achieving this lofty and critical aspiration. Data from this survey has helped us to better understand how to serve our community and create spaces of real belonging where people can bring their whole selves.
Finally and most importantly, we commit to holding each other with compassion, as well as holding one another lovingly accountable, to growth and learning. Together, we will birth the diverse, inclusive and equitable future we want to be a part of, here at Mishkan, and beyond.
If you want to learn more about our racial justice work, please be in touch with us at [email protected].
Our Ongoing Work
Promoting our community’s learning about racial equity and inclusion
- Providing ongoing learning about anti-racism, bias and diversity for our staff, board and community.
- Established a Racial Equity and Inclusion Fund for programming, community engagement and ongoing training and education for staff & leadership. Building a relationship with BIPOC leaders in our community to collaborate in that process. If you’d like to support our efforts, we invite you to make a gift.
- Our Mensch Academy pedagogy aspires to be anti-racist and a commited to teaching Judaism’s mandate for justice at all grade levels.
Creating a more intentionally inclusive community space
- Intentional discussion of issues of race in sermons, podcasts, and digital media through the lens of Torah and Jewish wisdom;
- Elevating voices, music, and perspectives from various Jewish backgrounds, like Mizrachi and Sephardi.
- Imminent launch of an affinity group for Jews of Color, led by Jews of Color, financially and logistically supported by Mishkan Chicago;
- A commitment to anti-racist and equitable hiring and compensation practices and adding multi-talented, diverse voices to our staff team.
- Twenty percent of our Board of Directors identify as People of Color (POC), and 33% of board members are part of multi-racial families;
- Security practices and policies that are mindful of the fact that BIPOC are unfairly targeted by heavier policing. We work closely with our security vendors to ensure that folks are not targeted based on appearance.
Supporting collective anti-racist actions
- Ongoing commitment to fulfilling the concrete racial justice goals in Not Free to Desist, a movement outlining seven obligations for Jewish organizations with a guiding focus of centering more Jews of color in the work, and committing to policies and practices that support diversity, equity and inclusion;
- Support coalition work (Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, One Northside) that helps leverage the Jewish community’s collective power to promote racial equity on a policy level in Chicago.