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Reconstructionist Judaism moves to back reparations for African Americans



(JTA) — The congregational arm of Reconstructionist Judaism has endorsed reparations for Black Americans, approving a resolution that calls for “ongoing learning,” “deep reflection” and “teshuvah,” or repentance. 

But the resolution approved by Reconstructionist congregations earlier this month does not mention financial compensation for those who have been harmed by American slavery and its lasting effects. 

“The goal of this resolution is to establish a moral position around reparations,” said Rabbi Micah Geurin Weiss, whose title is assistant director for thriving communities and tikkun olam specialist at Reconstructing Judaism, the movement’s official name. “We understand that as a religious movement we are uniquely positioned to do so.”

During a Dec. 11 Zoom call, representatives of 47 congregations voted in support of the resolution and 11 abstained. There were no negative votes. Reconstructing Judaism has 95 congregations and recognized havurahs, or groups that meet outside of traditional synagogues, with an estimated 50,000 members.

The vote was a penultimate step in a process that began nearly two years ago, when the movement’s 370-member rabbinical association passed a “statement of resolve on reparations and antiracism.” If approved in January by Reconstructing Judaism’s board of governors, the resolution will serve as a guide for rabbis and congregations, as well as the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the movement’s affiliated enterprises.

Reconstructing Judaism, with which about 1% of American Jews are affiliated, is not the first major Jewish movement in the United States to express support for reparations, seen by advocates as an essential step in moving toward racial equity.

The Union of Reform Judaism passed a resolution at its 2019 conference backing the creation of “a federal commission to study and develop proposals for reparations to redress the historic and continuing effects of slavery and subsequent systemic racial, societal, and economic discrimination against Black Americans.” 

Reconstructing Judaism’s resolution calls for the same commission, which was first introduced in Congress in 1989 but has never come to a full vote. The resolution also urges movement congregations to engage in “ongoing learning about systems of oppression and structural racism, and about how these systems have caused, and continue to cause, harm in our communities.” It also urges them to join racial justice initiatives led by people of color, and to take “concrete steps to repair the harm” of racism and injustice. Those “concrete steps” are not specified, nor is a timetable laid out. 

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president and CEO of Reconstructing Judaism, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the resolution and its demands could feel uncomfortable for some.

Related: The case for reparations, according to two Jews living in the first American city to offer them 

“For the Jewish people, engaging in this conversation means getting real about doing this work about racial justice, facing that reality rather than using it as a pretext to shy away,” she said. “This is about urging our communities and our movement at large to look at systemic racism really squarely, and for individuals to do their own reckoning and for communities to do their own reckoning.”

It is essential for that reckoning to take place in part because Reconstructing Judaism has a diverse membership, said Rabbi Sandra Lawson, the movement’s director of racial diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The Reconstructionist movement is doing the work of how do we deal with the fact that we have people in our communities whose families have been harmed and continue to be harmed,” said Lawson, who is Black. She added, “The solutions piece is what frightens people, I think.”

Lawson’s first Jewish community was at Congregation Bet Haverim, a Reconstructionist congregation in Atlanta, a city often referred to as the cradle of the civil rights movement.

“Our congregation includes descendants of both the enslaved and their enslavers. But telling the full truth means owning the responsibility we all share,” said Bet Haverim’s rabbi, Mike Rothbaum. “My Ashkenazi Jewish ancestors were racially ‘other’ both in Europe and when they arrived in the U.S., and yet, the developments of the 20th century allowed their descendants — myself included — to access whiteness and its privileges.

“That journey across racial borders reveals the arbitrary nature of race in the U.S.,” Rothbaum added. “It demands that we as Jews talk about it, both publicly and privately. If we can be honest in private, our next step is to publicly stand in solidarity with Black folks in Georgia who continue to face the repercussions of racial injustice — substandard healthcare, mass incarceration, underfunded schools, voter suppression, restricted access to employment and credit.”

The post Reconstructionist Judaism moves to back reparations for African Americans appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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