Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council - April 2023

By: Gary Cohen
Vice President - Sales
RC Fine Foods

While we as members of SHFM focus mainly on diversity, equity and inclusion training for our workplaces, we need to extend these goals to our personal experiences. For the last two years I have had the privilege of being president of my local congregation and working as part of a team on our own DEI initiative, or REDI for racial equity, diversity and inclusion. With the growing threat of antisemitic speech and actions, we felt it was important to ensure that we ourselves were not excluding those in or adjacent to our community.

When I was in high school, I can remember being with a group of my fellow students working on a project. When the day off that they wanted to work on a project turned out to be Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, I let them know I would not be able to join them. I can still remember one of them turning towards me and saying, “That’s funny. You don’t look Jewish.” Growing up in a diverse neighborhood in New Jersey, I was surprised by that reaction. Sadly, according to the Anti-Defamation League, New Jersey now ranks third in the United States for the number of antisemitic incidents.

Forty plus years after that incident, I wonder how that person would look at the diversity of my congregation. Our temple family includes Jews of Color, Jews by Choice and Jews by Birth. We are a melting pot of genders, identities, ages and abilities, each with our own story to tell. Last year we celebrated our first nonbinary B’nei Mitzvah in place of either a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Ask me today what “looking Jewish” means and I can’t give you a clear answer to that question.

Our inclusion extends beyond our own faith. We share our space with a Muslim community that does not have a space large enough for their Ramadan worship and have broken bread with them for the Eid al-Fitr feast at the end of the holy month as we are all the children of Abraham.

As April ends a month filled with deeply spiritual celebrations for many faiths, I am reminded of a Franciscan Benediction that encompasses our hope for a better world for all of us:

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God’s creations,
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done: To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.

One of my favorite family dishes. While my mother’s recipe is a closely guarded secret, here is a great substitute with some interesting history.

We recently lost Mimi Sheraton, a pioneer food critic and a wonderful Jewish cook. Here’s one of her books filled with memories and recipes.

My parents took several trips with Arthur Schwartz. It was always about the food.

Scroll to Top