TBE Bends Toward Justice Recap

It was cold on the evening of Wednesday, November 13, but the Temple Beth El congregants who showed up for the “TBE Bends Toward Justice: Congregational Report Back” were warmed not just by the coffee and tea they drank but by the Community Organizing team’s presentation of the work they have been doing.  Rabbi Klass opened with a conversation about why Jews are called to social justice efforts in general and to racial equity work in particular. She shared learning from a recent Race Matters for Juvenile Justice conference around racial inequity as a “groundwater issue” that permeates all aspects of our society, a compelling reason to assess the various challenges in our society through a racial justice lens.

A year and a half ago, at the first community organizing report back event, the team presented the results of a congregation-wide listening campaign, and congregants voted to focus on racial equity through three areas: affordable housing, Pre-K – 12 education, and criminal justice reform.

On Wednesday evening, the issue teams that formed around these three areas reported back on their findings.

After months of research, the Affordable Housing team decided to pause their efforts. Their research yielded important information: the field is saturated, and at this time, there is no actionable, unique opportunity for Temple Beth El to participate. The members of this team are still passionate about affordable housing and remain involved in the issue through other local organizations.

The Equity in Education team, represented by Lisa Garfinkle and Milt Poler, explained the negative impact of toxic stress cause by ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences) on our brains, and in turn, on the ability of children to learn and grow into healthy adults.  All children can be affected by ACE’s, but children of color are impacted more drastically. The team viewed the documentary “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope,” and has begun preparing a campaign to bring trauma-informed curriculum and training to our public schools, beginning by educating as many people as possible within the CMS school system. Congregant Gail Baron, an employee of Alexander Children’s Foundation, shared some of the ways in which she sees firsthand the negative impacts of ACE’s on the children treated by her agency. While Alexander reaches 10,000 children a year, there are 270,000 North Carolina children left undiagnosed and untreated.

The Criminal Justice team had similarly shocking information to share.  Team co-leader Jacob Friedman presented a powerpoint demonstrating how implicit bias results in unfair policing, causing people of color to be pulled over more often and treated differently once they have been pulled over. For many Temple Beth El congregants, a traffic ticket is an annoying inconvenience, but for many people living in poverty, a fine of a few hundred dollars is crippling. As a result of inability to pay, many lose their driver’s license.  According to the NC DOT, there are currently 60,000+ people in Mecklenburg county alone who have lost licenses as a result of failure to pay or failure to appear. Team co-leader and public defender Eli Sevcik-Timberg shared the story of a young woman he knows who lost her license, could not afford to pay the fees, and the legal problems it has caused.

After both presentations and small group discussions, the Community Organizing teams offered a variety of ways that congregants can participate in Temple Beth El’s work on these issues. Please see below to get involved:

Action items:

  1. Educate:
    • View both team’s presentations: Education and Criminal Justice
    • Sign up to host a parlor meeting where Jacob Friedman will share the team’s presentation “Blocked Roads” and explain the need for Drivers License restoration clinics here in Charlotte. Email Jacob.
    • Register here for the Equity in Education team’s Sunday December 15th presentation of “Resilience.”
    • Sign up for our upcoming Community Organizing 101 training to learn more about how we can use the tools of community organizing to bring lasting change and world repair.
  2. Connect: reach out to Lisa Garfinkle to get involved with Equity in Education, or Eli Timberg or Jacob Friedman to get involved with Criminal Justice reform.
Jill Blumenthal is TBE’s Vice President of Community and Action


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