The San Francisco Black & Jewish Unity Coalition
Since early 2016, Congregation Emanu-El has worked with leaders in the Black community to identify issues of concern that we can then address in order to make important and lasting changes that affect the lives of underserved people in San Francisco and in California. We have worked successfully to reduce the use of cash bail; reduce the impact of fees and fines on indigent people; open up occupational licenses for people with felony convictions; create housing for very low income Bay Area residents; provide economic opportunities for formerly incarcerated people; and a number of other issues. In doing so, we have brought members of the Black and Jewish communities in San Francisco together and deepened relationships between members of our community. We welcome Congregation Emanu-El congregants to join us at our monthly meetings the second Thursday of every month from 6:00 – 7:15 pm.
Congregation Emanu-El and Rabbi Beth Singer were instrumental in the formation of the San Francisco Black and Jewish Unity Coalition early in 2016. The initial idea was for our clergy to meet to address issues that concerned the Black clergy in San Francisco and to seek satisfactory solutions to those concerns. But the clergy decided to invite leaders and social activists to participate in order to bring the communities together and to get more community support. It was decided to keep the group informal and to meet once a month on the second Thursday. Members discovered that as they got to know each other better, discussions became very personal and thought provoking and they became closer to one another. These discussions about racial issues, prejudice, and attitudes in this progressive community became an important part of the organization’s activities and helped forge a true unity among the group.
Issues the Unity Coalition Is Working on in 2021 – 2022:
The Unity Coalition has focused its efforts in 2021 and 2022 on a number of vital issues in several different areas and working with the Office of the Governor, with several California legislators and their staffs; and with officials in California administrative agencies, has been able to effectuate significant changes. This work continues, both in the implementation of changes and in the Unity Coalition’s advocacy for more change:
- Criminal Justice – Addressing issues of inequities in the criminal justice system and making changes in the treatment of people of color in the enforcement of the law. We supported the successful elimination of fees and fines for indigent people and the successful reduction of the use of cash bail in criminal cases.
- Prison Reform – Advocating to make all California prisons places for rehabilitation and not punishment by meeting with legislators and members of the Governor’s staff to encourage them to introduce bills or make administrative changes that will help inmates turn their lives around and be prepared to succeed when they reenter society.
- Parole Reform – Successfully advocating that the California Parole Board (BPH) be expanded from 15 to 17 commissioners and that more commissioners be therapists and clergy. In 2018, for the first time in many years, more people were discharged from California prisons than were admitted.
- Institutional Racism – Sponsoring lectures, seminars, and programs that address issues of institutional racism, economic inequality, white nationalism, and prejudice of any kind. The Unity Coalition seeks to educate and inform the community about some of the inequalities that exist in our community that many people are not aware of in their daily life. In one of the most progressive cities in the United States, we continue to experience disproportionate arrests of people of color, harsher sentences for defendants of color, disproportionate school suspensions for students of color, and economic disparities between workers of color and white employees.
- Economic Equity – Advocating for equal educational and vocational opportunities for communities of color. We brought a bill to Assemblyman Chiu that was eventually signed into law that eliminated the ban that prevented people with felony convictions from obtaining over 200 occupational separate licenses.
- Electoral Politics – Working with national groups to call potential voters in red and purple states to encourage them to register and vote, Unity Coalition members had an impact in 2019/2020 and will have a larger impact in 2022 and 2024.
The Unity Coalition constantly reviews the issues to be focused on and welcomes input from its members.
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm | Office closed at 1:00 pm.
5:00 pm - 5:30 pm | Sounds of the Shofar: Children’s Kol Nidre ServiceLed by…
5:30 pm - 7:15 pm | Join us in-person for Opening The Gates: Kol Nidre…