Education is a lifelong endeavor.

At Mount Zion, the Tzedek committee is committed to offering opportunities for lifelong learning in order to deepen our understanding of what the work of justice entails. We sometimes fail to recognize what is broken in our communities or fail to appreciate the ways that injustices become entangled together.

In 2023, Tzedek committee members suggested books for congregants to read regarding race and racism in the United States. Books included:

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism, by Amber Ruffin and Lacey LaMar

This humorous and educational book is written as a series of sisterly conversations discussing ridiculous but very real experiences of racism. Amber Ruffin is a comedian, writer, and host of The Amber Ruffin Show on NBC. Lacey Lamar is Amber’s older sister and a human resources professional living in her home state of Nebraska. The book is contemporary, relatable, and laugh-out-loud funny. Their experiences are so common and told with such humor that we can realize how subtly racist we actually are. It is easier to – hopefully – become more aware of how what we do and say may be racist. – Janice Goldstein

The Cooking Gene, by Michael Twitty

An intersection of personal and cultural history, told through the food traditions of the American South and its African origins–Michael Twitty’s fearless pursuit of his roots through both his enslaved and enslaving ancestors, and how he finds threads of his African roots emerging in present life gave me more respect and new knowledge of the breadth of African-American experience. Plus, he’s Jewish. And there are recipes! – Siana Goodwin

The Hidden Wound, by Wendell Berry

Reading The Hidden Wound was a powerful experience for me because it highlighted the negative effects of racism on American whites (like me) and forced me to think about my role in unintentionally sustaining an existing oppressive system. The book is Berry’s extended essay (hence a short book) about the effects of the “hidden wound” of racism on the identity of our country. He uses stories from his personal upbringing—his close relationships with two African-Americans who worked on his family’s farm—to highlight the negative effects of racism on American Whites. It is beautifully written and compelling. – Jean King Appelbaum

In 2022-23 we read All That She Carried by historian Tiya Miles. This work focused on the generational trauma of slavery as well as remarkable resilience and the vital role that family stories and keepsakes play in preserving our sense of humanity and our hope in the future.

In 2021, we sponsored a congregational book reading of Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson, and followed up with conversations on how to deepen our anti-racism work and strengthen our commitment to full equity and inclusion at Mount Zion and in our broader community. During the Summer months, Tzedek leadership met with Edot Midwest Regional Jewish Diversity to discuss congregational anti-racism strategies. In October, we held a four- part conversation led by members of Edot and attended by at least 40 Mount Zion members to discuss how the Tzedek Committee and Mount Zion can move more effectively on anti-racism. This was followed up with a retreat in January of 2022 with twenty congregants to develop both internal and external action plans on racial justice and anti-racism. As part of this initiative, we recognized the value of proceeding with care, building mutual trust and listening to one another.
We continue to wrestle with the ways that racial hierarchy has both victimized and privileged Jews in America. And we are informed by Wilkerson’s important discussion of reparations in our racial justice work in Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood.

In 2020, we lead a congregational book read of Dear America by Jose Antonio Vargas. This work inspired us to think about our own immigration stories and to more fully appreciate the ways that our immigration system is broken. During the COVID lockdowns, we partnered with other local faith communities to discuss this book via zoom. These discussions continue to inform our work with asylum seekers and newly arriving immigrants and continue to be vital as we consider the more than 110 million forcibly displaced people in search of safety today.

In 2019, we hosted showings of the documentary film “Jim Crow of the North,” that investigates how housing discrimination was (and is) a serious problem in the Twin Cities. The film was produced as part of a project on Mapping Prejudice that examines the use of restrictive covenants to prevent groups of people, based on race, from owning homes in some communities. This work continues to inform Tzedek committee members about generational trauma, the ways that poverty intersects with race and class, and on the lack of affordable housing in the Twin Cities.

In 2018-19, In a continuing effort to foster meaningful conversations about immigration justice and reflections on our Jewish value of welcoming the stranger among us, we offered congregants copies of Enrique’s Journey by journalist, Sonia Nazario. This book documents the journey of a young Honduran boy who travels from Central America to the U.S., looking for his mother who left him eleven years earlier to seek work in the North. Enrique’s story humanizes the plight of thousands of undocumented immigrants and raises challenging questions regarding responsibility, justice, family and refuge.

Earlier congregational book reads included The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and discussions of the ways that our criminal justice system continues to marginalize, oppress and control Black Americans.

As Tzedek members work to understand the pernicious and pervasive reach of structural inequalities predicated on race, we have committed to actions within our broader community.