The Roundtable's core function is to convene our organizations and help them learn from each other and from experts in the field. The Roundtable builds capacities and relationships among our affiliates by holding virtual and in person trainings and informal gatherings for staff from across the network.
Effectively working on social justice issues today requires the self-awareness, knowledge, and skills to navigate complex dynamics related to white privilege and racism, paternalism/sexism, antisemitism, Israel-Palestine, and more. The Roundtable approaches this work as it does other areas: by putting relationship before task; grounding the work in Jewish tradition and values; and using community gatherings and support as core assets. The desired outcome of this strategy is greater resilience, courage, and creativity among Roundtable staff and leaders in order to engage more effectively in social change work.
To develop capacities of staff at Roundtable organizations to embed racial equity practices, we offer in-person and virtual trainings for staff to learn about racial justice and what it means to be diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations. We provide frameworks, tools, and relationships for those working in the Jewish social justice field in an environment of curiosity, compassion, and challenge.
In January 2020, the Roundtable awarded almost $100,000 to 21 affiliates to support their racial diversity, equity, and inclusion work. The matching grants were intended to build on existing capacities of organizations so they can further embed racial justice practices and address racism within organizational systems and culture.
We provide additional support to our organizations through affinity group gatherings and one-on-one mentoring for Jews of Color staff members. Affinity groups are cohorts where connections and support are beneficial in advancing broader social change. Initially, the Roundtable prioritized cohorts of Jewish People of Color, Sephardi-Mizrahi Jews and white Jews. Each affinity group benefits from professional development and support from their peers.
Finally, there is a Racial Justice Community of Practice of staff from organizations engaged in transformative racial justice journeys that convenes virtually on a regular basis.
Check out our racial justice resources.
Since its founding, the Roundtable has held two Network Assemblies. In 2013, over 120 staff attended our first Network Assembly. As it was our inaugural gathering, the focus was on building relationships across Roundtable organizations, engaging in collective visioning, and building skills and capacity of the Jewish social justice field. Because we believe in drawing on our internal expertise, 20% of participants led activities, including 18 sessions on topics like: Cultivating Spiritual Sustainability, What Anti-Oppression Organizing and Constituency Organizing Have to Say to Each Other, and Challenges and Opportunities of Coalition Building.
In 2017, 160 staff from 46 organizations attended our second Network Assembly, which had focus on racial justice throughout it. A full day was devoted to an impactful series of trainings that especially focused on lifting up the experiences of Jews of Color. We held an optional add-on day for the community of practice for organizations deeply engaged in the work of racial justice. We were guided by trainers Suzanne Feinspan, Koach Frazier, Dove Kent, Jo Kent Katz, Yavilah McCoy, and Aba Taylor. The journey was guided with love and with meaningful challenges; it was particularly profound as the attendees learned and grew together.
The 2020 Network Assembly will be the largest yet. We will convene our multi-racial Jewish social justice field for joy, healing, learning, and strategizing for the future.
Regional & Informal Gatherings
A commitment to social justice unites the Roundtable members at the same time that there are many ways in which the staff at our organizations work entirely apart. We have learned that there is great value in bringing people together to build direct relationships even if their job functions or their work focuses are different. These connections lead to collaborations, deepen a connection to the larger social justice field, and help staff develop informal support networks and fight feelings of isolation.
In the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, the Roundtable is fortunate to have Annie-Rose London and Pippi Kessler, who anchor the networks in each location. They regularly convene staff members from Roundtable organizations who work in these cities for breakfasts and trainings. We also host informal gatherings in other cities and at professional conferences being attended by a critical mass of Roundtable staff members.
The Roundtable regularly holds network-wide calls to discuss common issues or in response to relevant current events. We both initiate the calls and respond to a request from within the network. Topics have ranged from sharing 2020 civic engagement plans to a briefing from Leading Edge about its recent report.