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The Stolen Beam Series: A Study of Reparations

November 2, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

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Continuing Beth Emet’s tradition of learning and interest in social justice, this four-session class will explore – both broadly and through the lens of Jewish history and teachings – the timely issue of reparations for African-Americans. The name “Stolen Beam” refers to a Talmudic debate about the right thing to do when we discover that the house in which we live was built with stolen materials, i.e., a “stolen beam” – do we tear the house down and return the beam or do we acknowledge the crime and offer compensation to the beam’s owner? We use this metaphor, the Stolen Beam, in recognition of the fact that much of our country was built on stolen land with stolen lives and stolen labor.

Our discussion will explore the legacy and aftermath of African enslavement, what was stolen, what may be owed, examples of reparations, and what Judaism and Jewish history may teach us about the topic. We will also discuss Evanston’s widely acclaimed reparations efforts and the history that precipitated them.

The class, which will be conducted in a participatory discussion format rather than a lecture, and will be facilitated by congregants from the Beth Emet Social Action Committee’s Reparations Group. The weekly assignments, which will include written materials, videos, audio recordings, and study questions, are both stimulating and provocative, and all participants will be expected to read and/or view them before each session and come prepared for a lively discussion.



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