Bend the Arc proudly supports the “Not Free to Desist” campaign. Black Lives Matter.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, June 19, 2020
Contact: Logan Smith, [email protected], 202-709-8825

Bend the Arc signs on to the “Not Free to Desist” campaign urging Jewish groups to support Jews of Color

Open letter asks Jewish groups to fulfill seven commitments by 2023 to address
concerns regarding racism, inequity, and inclusivity

NEW YORK -- Bend the Arc is proud to sign on to the “Not Free to Desist” open letter to Jewish organizations, which was sent this week by Jews of Color urging Jewish groups to fulfill seven commitments by 2023 to address concerns regarding racism, inequity, and inclusivity.

“Bend the Arc is proud to join the Not Free to Desist campaign’s call to re-imagine our sacred covenant to one another and to our collective future,” said Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action. “We are committed to building a loving, liberated, and anti-racist Jewish community that affirms that Black Lives Matter — and that starts by living our values as an organization.”

“In this moment, we are being called as a country to rewrite our social contract and dismantle centuries old structures of white supremacy that oppress Black people daily,” continued Cotler. “For our multi-racial Jewish community to be fully committed to Black lives and Black liberation, including for Black Jews, we must also look inward and reimagine our communal obligations to each other. Bend the Arc has been committed to pursuing racial equity both internally and externally as an organization, and we are resolved to deepening our commitment through the Not Free to Desist project.”

The seven commitments included in the Not Free to Desist open letter include the following:

  1. Explicitly endorse that Black Lives Matter
  2. Establish racial justice and social equity as an explicit pillar of your organization
  3. Commit to explicit intersectional anti-racist and inclusive hiring and compensation practices
  4. Commit to anti-racist educational initiatives, curriculums and frameworks
  5. Invest in JOC and POC leadership development
  6. Create a robust list of racial justice, equity, and inclusion requirements that all grantees receiving Jewish institutional funding must adhere to
  7. Engage in the development of a fully funded initiative to assist in our communal accountability

“Judaism is predicated on a covenant which outlines the holy obligations we hold to one another as members of a community with a collective purpose,” the letter reads. “Our covenants remind us that those with power have an obligation to empower those with less and remind us that those with freedom have an obligation to help free those who are without. When we honor our commitment to each other then our communities will flourish with rain at its proper time, grain, wine, oil, and grass in our fields. When we do not fully commit, we risk the future of our very community.”

“Signing this letter is both a reflection of the work we have already done within our organization, and a commitment to deepening our goals for race equity,” added Cotler. “Bend the Arc has long fought for racial justice in our public campaigns, from supporting Black Lives Matter in 2015, to advocating for structural reforms to policing and criminal justice on the state and national level, to winning victories to reduce mass incarceration in California.”

Over the past several years, Bend the Arc has dramatically increased our commitment to racial equity in our organization, on our staff and board, and through leadership development for Jews of Color, training and political education for our field, and centering our commitments to racial justice in all of our work. Currently, 28% of our C3 board are People of Color (including 24% Jews of Color), and 24% of staff are POC (including 20% Jews of Color).

In 2015, our flagship Selah Leadership Program became dedicated to supporting the leadership of Jews of Color — and the third JOC cohort just completed the program. And in August, we are launching Project Shamash: Sparking the Leadership of East Bay Jews of Color, a three-year pilot project that will build JOC-led and JOC-oriented programming in the East Bay Area in California; identify and support JOC leaders who wish to serve Jewish institutions in staff or lay leadership positions; and help Jewish organizations become spaces where JOC can thrive and lead.

The “Not Free to Desist” open letter — online at — was written by Lindsey Newman, Aaron Samuels, and Rachel Sumekh, all three are alumni of Cohort 14 of Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership Program, and has been co-signed by over 110 people representing organizations, and over 1,800 individual Black Jews, Non-Black Jews of Color, and allies.