9 local synagogues join antisemitism network

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Nine Washington-area synagogues have joined the Anti-Defamation League’s Kulanu, a new nationwide program to fight antisemitism.

Beginning this month, 113 synagogues across the country have committed to address antisemitism together, through participation in ADL-led workshops, sharing resources with one another and hosting education series for people outside their communities, according to the ADL.

Kulanu strives to teach synagogues how to “engage in really crucial conversations in uniting against all forms of hate and extremism,” said Meredith Weisel, regional director of the ADL for D.C., Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. “As a region, we’ve done a
lot of engagement with our synagogues. We’ve focused on a re-engagement with a lot of our community members. It’s really important given the rise in antisemitism that we really have an initiative that allows them to do work in the community their synagogue is based in.” Kulanu is the Hebrew word for “all of us.”

The program is designed to last for eight months. Local congregations participating in the inaugural cohort are: Washington Hebrew Congregation, B’nai Israel Congregation, Ohr Kodesh Congregation and Shaare Torah.

In addition, Baltimore’s Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Agudath Sholom Synagogue of Lynchburg, Va., and Temple Beth El of Williamsburg , Va., have joined as well.

“We really recognize we are stronger in the fight against antisemitism when Jewish communities are empowered to do that work in partnership with us,” said Tema Smith, director of Jewish Outreach and Partnerships at the ADL. Synagogues participating in the program are supplied with the ADL’s resources and a network of congregations across the nation to address antisemitism.

Participating congregations must commit to form a working group that oversees Kulanu programming with a professional or clergy liaison, report bias incidents to the ADL, implement two programs or initiatives with at least one engaging an external audience beyond the synagogue’s community, and participate in at least two Kulanu meetings. Impact of the program will be communicated from participants at the end of June 2023.

“We are really excited to see what will come out of the creativity of the congregations’ battle against antisemitism across the country,” Smith said.

According to Weisel, Shaare Torah’s Rabbis Annie Lewis and Yosef Goldman have “jumped two feet in and then some” when it comes to doing outreach work in the community. “It’s really an educational opportunity.”

In the spring of 2022, the ADL initiated a pilot program for Kulanu, consisting of a few pioneering synagogues, including Washington Hebrew Congregation.

“They’re a national leader,” Weisel said. For the pilot programming, the congregation did a series of four learning sessions internally, but also invited external leaders of faith and organizational partners. Kulanu helped to facilitate the sessions. After the pilot program, Washington Hebrew Congregation signed up for the real deal. “Now they’re looking to do even more,” Weisel said.

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