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Heschel’s Anti-Racism Committee Begins Work

Zoe Singer ‘23, Assistant News Editor 

In response to global demands for racial justice, Heschel created the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) in each division to further educate Heschel students and teachers about various topics regarding race. 

As the ARC in the High School continues to sort out some logistics, and discuss how best to use available resources, major developments have already occurred. Beginning in the summer, the ARC developed a list of goals for the entire year, which include: (1) developing and maintaining an anti-racism mindset throughout the High School; (2) examining personal blindspots; (3) reevaluating the curriculum through an anti-racist framework; (4) advocating for professional development for faculty members; (5) continuing conversations about Whiteness; and (6) addressing national and global current events. 

The High School ARC has split up into two subcommittees. One subcommittee focuses on faculty learning and the other focuses on creating student programming. Jennifer Hilguard, High School Arabic teacher and a member of the faculty learning subcommittee, explained the progress that was made over the first few months of school: “We have discussed how we can support and integrate our programming with that of the incoming anti-racism consultant who will be joining us shortly, and we have been brainstorming strategies and activities to help faculty feel safe and comfortable engaging in these truly challenging discussions.”

High School English teacher and HS Hesed & Tzedek Coordinator Elana Anderson is the leader of the subcommittee dedicated to planning student programs centered around racial justice issues which meets every Monday. Following the Yom Iyun that was held in September, this subcommittee intends to create more programs in the future, particularly in advisory groups. When asked why these programs are so essential, Anderson said, “We as a community need to be open to the ways in which race and racism are not ‘things’ that happen or exist outside of ourselves; rather, we, as individuals, no matter how we identify, are constantly impacted by and living racialized identities in a racialized world albeit, sometimes as white folks, unconsciously.”

The Middle School ARC is engaged in similar work. This ARC was split into three subcommittees: the first is dedicated to faculty learning, the second plans special programs for students, and the third intends to create a larger curriculum dedicated to racial issues. The ARC subcommittee dedicated to special programming aims to have four programs in the Middle School throughout the year, generally relating to Jewish holidays in some way. Gillian Miller-Lewis, Middle School English and Social Studies teacher and member of the ARC, shared that middle schoolers will focus on celebrating Black culture through these special programs. She said, “Right now the special programming in advisory is to focus on a non-deficit lens. I think often the ways that we talk about Black and Brown people are the ways in which they’ve been disadvantaged in our society and understandably so, but there’s a real need for us to as well look at, study, celebrate, and appreciate the culture and all of the amazing things that people of color have brought.” The goals of the Middle School ARC’s third subcommittee are to expand students’ knowledge of systemic racism, gaining a better understanding of White privilege and recognizing one’s own privilege, as well motivating students to take action to address systems of inequality. 

As the school year continues, students can expect to see ARC make even more progress and continue to address important racial justice issues through faculty learning, student programs, and curricular adaptations.

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