SEA Change Initiative

Organizing synagogues in Maryland and beyond to uproot racism

The American Jewish poet Emma Lazarus famously wrote, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” That bold idea — that the destinies of all people are bound together — is a guiding principle of JOIN for Justice (also known as JOIN). JOIN recognizes that our society and systems are woefully broken, and that Jewish tradition provides a wellspring of tools, ideas, and values to build a more just future. That’s why the organization created SEA Change, an initiative to lay the groundwork for addressing diversity and equity within congregations and to work side by side with communities of color to address racism. SEA Change piloted its work in Montgomery County, Maryland.

In early 2020, before the pandemic and racially-charged atrocities focused our country’s attention on racism, Washington Hebrew Congregation and B'nai Israel Congregation, two large mainstream congregations representing two denominations in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., initiated efforts to jointly address racial inequities. SEA Change was born from that relationship, and engaged a cohort of 50 diverse individuals from those congregations to study, engage, and act together. In its first phase, SEA Change emphasized key principles of anti-racism theory and practice as well as the fundamentals of community organizing. For example, participants immersed themselves in intensive learning about the history and the stories we have each inherited and still hold about race, racism, Jewish identity, and antisemitism.

One participant shared, “SEA Change’s racial equity training led by JOIN trainers had a very significant impact on the direction of the congregation as a whole. The clergy and Board are doing strategic planning and, because of the SEA Change experience, social justice work will be central to the congregation’s vision going forward.”

The success of SEA Change will be measured not only by how many people are engaged in community organizing efforts but also by the type of cultural shifts that congregations experience. Already, the relationships developed between the two congregations represent a strong foundation for ongoing sustainable action — and serve as a model for how congregations can address racism nationwide.

  • Region

  • Population Served

    20s & 30s Jews of Color
  • Program Area(s)

    Leadership Development Community Building
  • Life Cycle Stage

  • Contact

    Alison Rice
  • Email
  • Phone

    617-350-9994 ext. 101
  • Website
  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Address

    PO Box 51248 Boston, MA 02205
  • Year Founded

  • Board Chair

    Philip Rosenblatt
  • 2021 Budget


Photo Gallery

  • 2022