June 16, 2022

A Desire to Learn

Sandy Myers Grawert Associate Director, Jewish Community Relations Committee

Every Thursday morning for five weeks, I looked forward to a two hour zoom meeting on my calendar. Those are not words that I write often, but my conversations with Dialogue Circles on Race cohort were so meaningful and inspiring. Race and racial disparities continue to impact the day to day lives of all communities, and the opportunity to have honest and thoughtful conversations motivated by a desire to learn (and not be defensive) are so rare in this highly divisive time. Dialogue Circles was everything you could hope for when it comes to learning together.

I was encouraged to see that there’s a real desire for learning in communities across the country – urban and suburban, and the commitment within the Greater MetroWest community is so strong. Our Anti-Racism Task Force has been engaged in this work since the summer of 2020, with learning, hands on service opportunities, and lending our name to advocacy campaigns. The work to change mindsets on racial justice takes time, but with ongoing opportunities for learning and conversing, as well as opportunities to connect as individuals who are different than ourselves, we are getting closer.

At the start of our first session, our facilitators started this quote from Lilla Watson, Indigenous Australian artist and academic: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But, if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” This idea set the stage for our learning together. We all want to do good, but more importantly, we want to learn together, gain self-awareness, and then serve as partners in making positive change for our communities.

As we celebrate Juneteenth and focus (again) on the impact of gun violence on our communities, losing access to reproductive care, and climate change, along with the disproportionate impact of these matters on communities of color, I have been reflecting on the work ahead of all of us.

Though one day on the calendar isn’t enough to address centuries of inequities, it’s an important step. Juneteenth is the most recognized African-American holiday observed in the United States, and it only became a federal holiday one year ago, in 2021. As Jews, we know that holidays are an important way to keep the history of a people alive and a reminder to retell the story of our history on a regular basis. Remembering this history and providing opportunities to learn about it will help us address the systemic and institutional inequities that we still live with. Learn more about the holiday here and here.

June 19, 1865 is considered the date when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed almost two and a half years earlier on January 1, 1863, full emancipation didn’t happen until General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and that 250,000 enslaved people were now free. Texas was the most remote of the slave states with few Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow.

Just as we ask others to learn about our history, it is incumbent upon us as Jews to also learn the history of others. Use this long weekend to attend a local Juneteenth event or click the links above to learn more:

  • First, for those of you looking to join the next Dialogue Circles (which I highly recommend!), keep an eye on the website for the Summit Interfaith Council.
  • Find a local opportunity to celebrate Juneteenth. Please note that this list is not exhaustive. If you know of an event happening in your community, please reach out to us at [email protected] and we will add it to the list: