Earlier in June the Safety Respect Equity Network (SRE) concluded its third annual Convening, Shelter from the Storm: Safety, respect, and equity during COVID-19 and beyond, amid myriad nationwide protests, marches, and discussions shining a spotlight on the ever present need for safety and equity for all. Over 200 professionals, practitioners, board members, and funders committed to gender justice took virtual shelter from the storm for two days of learning and reflection. Participants represented more than 130 organizations, 54 cities, and five countries. The convening featured a diverse line up of speakers and sessions on a variety of topics including the intersectionality of gender and race in the Jewish communal world.
“We are in the middle of a storm. In fact, we are in the middle of multiple storms,” said Elana Wien, Executive Director of SRE. “There is the storm brought on by the virus of COVID, and there is the storm brought on by a broken system that has taken generations to build up: systemic racism. Systemic anti-black oppression. Xenophobia. Anti-Semitism. Homophobia. Anti-poor policies. Gender-based violence. And when there is a storm, we are called upon to do more. We are called upon to rise to the occasion. And we will rise, but we cannot rise alone,” Ms. Wien continued.
The current pandemic is affecting everyone in profound ways, and its impact is being distributed inequitably. As a network focused on addressing sexual harassment and gender discrimination in Jewish workplaces and communal spaces, the convening provided an opportunity to gather, reflect on, and navigate through the period of disruption we currently face as individuals and institutions, and set a course that shapes what gender equity looks like in the near and distant future.
Significant conversations on allyhood occurred across the two days with many questioning what it means to be an ally in the gender justice movement – what does it look like to fully support women’s experiences in the Jewish communal world? And furthermore, as lay leader and Executive Director of University of Michigan Hillel Tilly Shames questioned, “When do we reach the point when gender equity and allyhood in our institutions is more than a ‘nice to have;’ when is it an expectation?”
At the start of 2020, as the next step in the continued evolution of this young initiative, SRE grounded its work for the coming year on being:
- Member-driven – reflecting the diverse identities and needs of its membership; as a
- A movement-builder – acting as catalyst for long-term cultural change; and as
- A multiplier – amplifying the impact of its community investments
It is with this focus that the work of SRE will continue beyond virtual conversations and into organizations, institutions, and congregations as each progresses along the continuum to achieve equity.
Of critical importance to SRE and its members is to be action-oriented. In this spirit, there are a number of things you can do today to learn more, both as an individual and as a member of an organization or institution: