This Juneteenth, Our Commitment to Racial Justice Stands Strong

By Joy Sisisky and Danielle Meshorer

Until very recently, the only widely celebrated holiday commemorating Black rights in the United States was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. However, on June 15, 2021, Juneteenth, which commemorates the legal freedom of enslaved Black Americans annually on June 19 (the day the confederacy’s last enslaved Black people finally gained their freedom on June 19, 1865) was established as a federal holiday. By doing so, the U.S. took a step forward in reckoning with its history of systemic racism, and will hopefully inspire further work toward equity for all Black Americans.

Two years ago, on June 19, 2020, the Federation stated our covenant to build an anti-racist community within our organization—and with it, our wider Bay Area Jewish community. A year later, we reaffirmed that commitment by cataloguing the steps we took to transform the promise from esteemed values into concrete action.

Now, in 2022, we have an opportunity to look back and humbly reflect on the progress we’ve made, while acknowledging that there is still more to be done. It reminds us to not be complacent. While this holiday is a joyous one that affirms the Jewish notion that we are all created b’tzelem Elohim (in God's image) and deserve to be free from bondage, it’s equally important to remember that the fight for true equality is ongoing.

As Rabbi Tarfon once stated, “You are not required to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot 2:16).

This work is slow, steady, and moves at the speed of trust. And we know that there are still many goals to achieve to create an equitable and inclusive Jewish community where all are seen, heard, and valued.

Our Continued Journey of Learning and Action

Upon announcing our declaration two years ago, we formed a Racial Justice Task Force, the majority of whom are Jews of Color (JOC). In the first year, we focused on using a racial equity lens for policy and process changes in board governance and nominating, as well as mapping recommendations from the consultant-led, organization-wide equity assessment to develop lay and professional leadership goals. Over the last year, we shifted our efforts to increasing power and agency with JOC by focusing on investment strategy, changes in communication guidelines, and conversations around metrics for individual and organization-wide accountability.

As our work progressed, it became increasingly clear that adding JOC to our board and staff was not enough. With time, we’ve become gradually more equipped to welcome JOC to the table. But we’ve also realized this was only the first step towards our true goal of real and permanent structural change.

The hard work of creating a truly equitable and inclusive space has only just begun.

While Juneteenth marks an incredibly important step in Black American rights, it was just that – one step. Juneteenth celebrated slavery becoming illegal, but it did not do away with racism. Today we continue to be devoted to this work as our understanding deepens. We hope to foster environments that represent all members of our community, and to ensure all community members, including those of color, thrive in Bay Area Jewish life.

Highlights of Our Racial Justice Work to Date

Grantmaking: We granted $627,000 through our teen-facing Tzedek Cohort to get teens excited and involved in striving for racial justice, engaging with their elected officials, and modeling diversity and belonging in their own lives and relationships. We have also granted over $280,000 toward systemic, cultural, and organizational change in community-based organizations. The Endowment Executive Committee has granted $225,000 over three years for the grant pool and operations of the newly formed Tzedek Fund, a JOC giving circle affinity space launching in August 2022.

Culture of Belonging: 473K, the Federation’s annual belonging conference, was transformed into a community-wide workshop series using a racial equity and broader DEI lens as part of the foundation.

Diversity Training: Continued education for Jewish communal professionals in topics such as implicit bias, microaggressions, and communications.

Commitment to Diversity Statement: The foundational, guiding document articulates and defines our work toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Implementing Recommendations from the Org-Wide Assessment: We hired two racial diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants to assess our practices, emphasizing racial equity. We are now transforming their recommendations from the equity assessment consultants into actionable steps including funding JOC-led organizations and leadership, initiating talks about Israel, and establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERG), including an anti-racist ERG.

Juneteenth Resources:

On this day of commemoration, we encourage you to personally reflect on, educate yourself about, and work against systemic racism. We’ve compiled a list of the following events and resources in the hope that we work together in building an anti-racist community:

 Anti-Racism Resources and Ways to Support Racial Justice

Ways You Can Take Action to Pursue Justice (tzedek)

  • Join Right to Be’s Stand Up Against Street Harassment Training (June 18 at 12:00 p.m.).
  • Give* to the Tzedek Fund grant pool to direct more resources into the hands of JOC participants that will collaboratively decide how to direct the funds.
    *To do so, add a note under Donation Comments to specify the "Tzedek Fund" as your gift recipient.
  • Give to organizations dedicated to racial justice and equality. Our Federation Philanthropy Partners team has developed this Giving Insights to serve as a guide.
  • Talk to your kids about racism with resources from PJ Library.
  • Practice directly refuting racism in your daily life, even when it makes you or others uncomfortable.
  • Educate those around you about race and racism by sharing these resources and others.


For more information on the Federation's commitment to diversity, contact Danielle Meshorer.


June 14, 2022


Danielle Meshorer