The New Jim Crow Task Force

Mission Statement

The Woodstock Jewish Congregation Task Force to End the New Jim Crow has the mission of alerting the Jewish community, within our synagogue and beyond, to the reality of mass incarceration as a new form of racial control in our country, as described and documented in Michelle Alexander’s remarkable book, The New Jim Crow.

We seek to conduct educational and activist programs within WJC; to reach out to other Jewish congregations and organizations; and to participate in a statewide coalition that is beginning to form in Albany.

Our hope is to join and strengthen the public discussion about police stop-and-frisk policies, about the War on Drugs and its discriminatory impact, about how racism functions in a “post-racial” America — and to help change policies within the criminal justice system through dialogue, outreach to people working within that system, and public mobilization.

We also hope to work locally at supporting projects that aim to help people coming out of prison reenter everyday life with resources and security.

We feel called to this work as Jews who are aware of the proud history of Jewish participation in the civil rights movement — and as Jews who hear the call of the prophet Isaiah:

“I created you, and appointed you
A covenant people...
Opening eyes deprived of light,
Rescuing prisoners from confinement,
From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (42: 6-7)

History

This task force grew out of a public educational event for Martin Luther King’s birthday in January, 2013, inspired by Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Rabbi Jonathan and Reverend Modele Clarke, pastor of the New Progressive Baptist Church in Kingston, both spoke at the event, as well as members of Rev. Clarke’s church who have dealt with the criminal justice system.

In less than a year, we have accomplished a great deal:

  • The task force helped sponsor Juneteenth at New Progressive Baptist Church, commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in 1865.
  • We organized a very successful Jewish Community Book Read with Temple Emanuel in Kingston for 5 facilitated sessions. Together we learned about the historical racist role of the criminal justice system and current injustices afflicting African Americans and Latinos through the War on Drugs.
  • A committee of the task force is reaching out to rabbis nationally, sending letters, articles and inspiration to join the movement to end the New Jim Crow. We are suggesting they bring this issue to their congregations and offering supportive materials to help them do just that.
  • We have joined with other groups to present a public film series shedding light on mass incarceration.
  • We have joined a statewide coalition of groups working against mass incarceration, including participating in a statewide conference in NYC in September.
  • We brought WJC and a Jewish presence to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in DC.

Take Part

Unless otherwise indicated on our calendar or in our e-mail newsletter, the Task Force meets every first Sunday of the month at 10 AM. For more information or to get involved, contact Chaia Lehrer at clehrer@hvc.rr.com.