וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם

And God created man in God’s image, in the image of God, God created man; male and female, God created them. – Beresheet 1:27

Just as I am a story and you are a story and countries tell stories about themselves, race is a story, too. – Julius Lester

Dear Rashi Community, 

This week we launched the first-ever all school RASHI READS initiative. Every classroom (K – 8) will read and explore the children’s book, Let’s Talk about Race, by Julius Lester, who was a Black and Jewish man.  Race is an essential topic that affects everyone in our world and in our society today. Students hear conflicting messages all the time, and we need to help them make sense of their world. We at Rashi are committed to engaging in this national conversation in age appropriate, thoughtful, honest, creative and Rashi values driven ways in our classrooms, and at home with our families.

Research from The National Association of Young Children says that children between the ages of 2 and 5 start becoming aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They also begin to absorb both the positive attitudes and negative biases attached to these aspects of identity by family members and other significant adults in their lives. The research goes on to say: “If we want children to like themselves and value diversity, we must learn how to help them resist the biases and prejudices that are still far too prevalent in our society today and expose them to the range and beauty of differences that exist between us all.” 

Imagine it is 2050 and our children are all grown up and talking about race with their own children.  When your child calls you and asks, “How did you teach me about race and help me understand race?” What will you say? 

Reading this powerful story together offers an opportunity and an entry point for teachers and students to talk about race and how racial identity affects the way we view one another and ourselves. It also allows the entire school, from our youngest students to our oldest students, to start from a common place (reading the same book) with a common theme (I am a story. So are you. So is everyone.) and use a shared vocabulary to begin to tell our own stories and have conversations about race. 

It is our hope that this school-wide endeavor will make space for our community to build momentum and deepen these conversations going forward.  We intend to begin to build racial consciousness among our students, about their own identity and that of other races. 

We are inspired by and grateful to the Rashi Reads Planning Team made up of teachers and specialists from across the school. They put their hard work and talents into creating a teaching guide to help teachers bring Let’s Talk About Race to life in age appropriate ways, including concrete, engaging ideas to take those first steps within ourselves and with our students.  Many thanks to Adrien Khelemsky, Ayelet Lipton, Corey Roberts, Erica Smiley, Mali Brodt, Olivia Garrity, Rabbi Sharon Clevenger, and Sharon Miller.

We are all on this journey together. Stay tuned to find out how Rashi families can be part of RASHI READS and join the conversation!

B’kavod,

Stephanie Rotsky and Sherman Goldblum