By David Cygielman, Founder & CEO
Over the last two months, I have received countless emails from seemingly every company that has my contact info sharing about how they feel about racial inequality in America. Social media posts and commentary have flooded my feed. Imagine if all of the time, energy and money that has gone into the countless social media posts shared and mass company emails about racial justice sent recently were surpassed by time spent on doing the difficult work that can create real change in the next months and years ahead. Like every company and organization I am associated with, Moishe House moved quickly to stand in solidarity with the Black community in speaking out against the racial injustice. But, where were our voices before May 2020? At Moishe House, where have we been in ensuring that Moishe House is not only a place where Black and Brown people are welcome, but also a place where those voices are elevated and thrive?
I have always hoped that Moishe House would be a place where the full spectrum of Jewish life and Jewish backgrounds can find a home—but hope is not a strategy. It is important for us to acknowledge that up to this point, while we have a strategy for expansion, for Jewish learning, for Israel engagement, for fundraising and so much more, we have not had a strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion. It is easy and natural to feel like we must focus on fixing the things that are most broken, and for most of us in the white community, we do not feel the daily effects of racial inequality. We have the privilege of feeling welcome in most spaces and can find comfort in knowing that there are excellent examples of diversity that we can call upon when needed. But having examples on hand to call on isn’t the same as doing the work.
The challenge for leaders is that we must not only focus on the things that are broken for us, but we must also find ways to learn and understand what is broken for others and work together to fix them. This does not happen with a social media post, by reading a book or by having a deep conversation. These steps can elevate our awareness, but without bringing in expertise and investing in this work the same way we would for a strategic plan, fundraising strategy or expansion work, it will not create real change or impact. I am talking about investing serious dollars and significant time for the long haul. It cannot be just for those who are most interested in joining the committee–it has to be across all departments and include new employees up through the board. If today, as an organization, we were able to declare the changes that we will be making, then I would argue that we have already come up short. Even the process of learning where we need to change is part of the process that can lead to the most impactful outcomes.
We are excited, anxious and even a bit nervous to be starting this work by engaging Dr. Dietra Hawkins to be our partner and guide. Dr. Hawkins is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and holds a faculty appointment as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale University. While we don’t yet know exactly how Moishe House will change and evolve, I am appreciative of our team’s eagerness to dive into the work and to Dr. Hawkins for leading the way. I know we will be a better organization for it in the future. If you would like to learn more about the actual work as we develop and implement it, please be in touch, we will be happy to share. I hope that when we look back we will spend a lot less time evaluating what we posted and sent out to our listserv and a lot more time focused on the changes and impact we’ve made.