By Rabbi Hugh Seid-Valencia, Director of Collaborative Learning & Jewish Engagement, March 2021
As we look back at the last year and the learning and adapting we have done since the pandemic began, it is worth taking into account that this was also a year of sustained cultural reckoning. This cultural reckoning, engendered by the Black Lives Matter movement, motivated a wide range of institutions to re-evaluate their place in the struggle to build a more just world. In the last year, we at Jewish Silicon Valley have begun building the foundations for a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization.
This work is taking place on a number of fronts. A small group of staff members has been meeting regularly since the summer to not only learn more about the issue but also to propose policies such as staff response to a racist incident on the campus. The early childhood education team is engaged in a series of staff development conversations designed to foster antiracist classroom and school cultures. Our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) convened leaders of local synagogues and Jewish organizations, facilitated by Be’chol Lashon, to assess their institutional diversity, equity and inclusion, and we are participating in that process ourselves. We created a plan for programming that highlights both Jewish and regional cultural diversity with goals for each area of programming such as Russian, Israeli and family programming. We began a discussion of how we might work more equitably with campus vendors such as security and housekeeping– a discussion that resulted in extending membership benefits for vendors who spend the majority of their time on campus.
We also created a statement of what a diverse, equitable, and inclusive Jewish Silicon Valley organization would look like in terms of staff, board, community members, and partnerships with other organizations. This statement was vetted by the JCRC cabinet and will be considered by the Jewish Silicon Valley board of directors. If approved, it will provide a roadmap for our efforts moving forward. As we approach Passover and its focus on personal and communal liberation, we remain committed to examining our assumptions and our actions with an eye towards doing better.