Over the past year, the GatherDC team has engaged in an in-depth racial justice and liberatory consciousness learning process. While this transformative learning and self-awareness remains ongoing, we know that’s not enough.
Judaism tells us that study and action are both necessary to living an impactful, meaningful life. But, the relationship between learning and doing isn’t always clear. Should one come before the other? If so, for how long before taking the next step? Or, should they happen at the same time?
The sages of our tradition also had these questions. In the Talmud, a central text of Jewish law and practice, there’s a famous debate between Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva:
Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were gathered when a question was posed to them: Which is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon answered: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva answered: Study is greater. The rest agreed with Rabbi Akiva that study is greater because study leads to action.
The conclusion of this debate seems to be that study should be prioritized before action. In many ways, this is true. It is more responsible to act with correct information and understanding. But we also know that delaying action can have negative consequences, as is too often the case regarding matters of injustice.
Looking more closely at this Talmudic text, it actually seems to be saying something more than an initial first read. Rather than delay action, study should “lead” to it, or compel it. Our learning should make us feel obligated to act. Perhaps then, our sages meant that action is the ultimate goal, but it should be accompanied by learning, analysis and conversation, before, during and after the work.
This is why, after taking time to learn and have tough internal conversations, GatherDC has begun to also take concrete steps to move forward our efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Being accountable for what we learn and what we do, GatherDC is committing to becoming fully anti-racist in our policies and practices. This accountability statement is our public pledge to you, our community, about how we are doing it. It’s a way to share what we’re thinking and what changes we are currently and planning to make so that we can embody true, lasting change.
In this statement, you will find our understanding for why DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice) work is important to GatherDC, why it is deeply Jewish and long overdue, and how we plan to hold ourselves accountable to doing it well.
It’s also our hope that you will join in this conversation with us. Our work is informed and inspired by you – so please know we are here to carefully listen and respond.
With that, please take a moment to read our Anti-Racist Accountability Statement. Thank you.
Rabbi Ilana + The GatherDC Team