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Racial Justice Task Force

RJTF Mission: Our identity, personally and as a community, will become anti-racist, and our actions will be anchored by new awareness and true belief in the value of equity for all.


About the RJTF

After the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, along with other racially charged incidents occurring around the US, Rabbi Ari Margolis sought out members of Congregation Or Shalom who were concerned about racial disparities in the US. A core group of individuals responded and met via video chat to address possible responses that could be taken within the Or Shalom community. Under the initial guidance of Rabbi Margolis, a grassroots organization, named “The Racial justice Task Force” (RJTF) was formed.


The initial mission of the RJTF was to build awareness of racial biases within the community through education and other programming that would facilitate peace and racial understanding for all.  The first step decided was for RJTF members to educate the community and itself. Or Shalom member and Psychologist, Jeff Vergo, being well informed on the issues of racial disparity, spoke to the congregation about systemic racism in the USA, and shared personal experiences of racism as a Black person to the community during Yom Kippur. The task force decided to participate in a self-led training cohort  to work through “The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing” by Anneliese A. Singh


This initial effort, led by Jeff Vergo, Stephanie Levenbrook, and Matt Marder, involved 8 other Or Shalom members meeting weekly beginning September 2020. After the culmination of the High Holy Days, the RJTF surveyed the Congregational Community to identify its desire for activities and future programming. 68 congregants responded, and the RJTF personally contacted everyone to discuss their thoughts on how to best serve the congregation. As a result of these calls, several new members joined the task force, and the RJTF tailored programming toward community motivations. 


Members of RJTF expanded into joint programming with a neighboring Reconstructionist synagogue, Shir Hadash, led by their Director of Education, Rachel Goldberg.  This group completed a 4-session book discussion about “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo. The RJTF would offer its own book discussion led by Art Shriberg. 


The taskforce decided to formalize a leadership structure and named Matt Marder and Art Shriberg as co-chairs. John Katz-Mariani, RJTF Communication Coordinator, provided information in Or Shalom’s weekly eblast and monthly newsletter. He was also the coordinator for the Congregation’s Board of Directors and led the presentation to the Board about the goals and work of the RJTF.



  • RJTF Cohort Groups
    • Conducted by members of the RJTF, these groups will meet weekly to take an introspective journey through The Racial Healing Handbook, by Annelies A. Singh. As described in the book, “The Racial Healing Handbook offers powerful and practical tools to help you explore the history of racism, challenge stereotypes, and manage the stress and remorse that result from living in an unequal world.”
  • Book Discussion Groups
    • We come together for 2-4 sessions at a time to read and discuss important topical books on racism, white fragility, and racial equity. Book groups are facilitated by a member of the Racial Justice Task Force. White Fragility—Why is it so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, will be the book discussed in November. This book has been called “very impactful”, “very controversial”, and “very educational” by participants in our last book sessions that featured this book. The discussions will be four consecutive week or Sunday evenings for 90 minutes.
  • Cinema Spotlight Series
    • Movies of various genres will be viewed and examined throughout the year. Each discussion will provide a forum to address the racial experience and gain an understanding of the impact these movies have had within our society. The theme for the 2022 series: Hollywood Portrayal of Racism Over Time
  • Partnership Programming
    • The RJTF is in dialogue with Concord Missionary Baptist Church and is interested in pursuing partnerships with other area religious institutions. The RJTF will need YOUR participation to facilitate these relationships. Additional information will be shared throughout the 2021-2022 year.

We would also love to hear your programming ideas for ALL AGES and the ENTIRE FAMILY! Send ANY AND ALL ideas to the RJTF at

Sun, May 26 2024 18 Iyar 5784