Black History Month


February is Black History Month. We as a country recognize, highlight and celebrate the achievements of Black Americans, as well as recognize their role in the history of the United States. This is important, as many Black inventors, engineers, scientists, doctors, and more are constantly overlooked. It is crucial for all Americans, including the Ramaz School, to engage in conversations regarding race and the challenges that Black people face in America. Unfortunately, Ramaz fell short of this objective.

The 10th and 12th graders listened to Rabbi Aharon Frazer speak about his experience as the child of a Black parent in the Orthodox community. The 9th and 11th graders watched “Just Mercy”, a movie based on the story of American lawyer and social justice activist, Bryan Stevenson, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative. Both of these programs provided insight into the struggles of the Black community in America, and sparked conversations that we as a school needed to have. 

In the past few years, Ramaz has done nothing to celebrate or honor Black History Month, so I applaud them for taking this first step. However, this simply was not enough. After we watched the movie, my class had one class discussion about it, which was not necessarily the case in other classes. Further, the movie was shown on Zoom, and thus many students were not paying attention. 

Students would have welcomed the opportunity to learn about people who played an important role in our country or discuss topics such as systemic racism (which, technically speaking, is redundant, as racism is already systemic by definition), implicit bias, etc. yet, there were no videos, no presentations, nothing. The efforts made by Ramaz to celebrate Black History Month were lacking. A school, which has a goal and a responsibility to educate, should do more to inform their students on very real, very serious issues that exist in our society. 

It is clear that Ramaz can do better regarding exploring these issues. Ramaz students are always taught the concept of Tikkun Olam, an aspiration to repair and heal the world. Eradicating racism and overcoming social issues in America is certainly part of that goal, and we as Jews have a moral responsibility to carry out this mission. Recognizing as well as celebrating Black History Month is a big part of this concept. This has been a transitional year in many ways, and I am hoping that next year, Ramaz will take the opportunity to do more in their approach to celebrating Black History Month, and even educating students on the accomplishments of the Black community as well as racial issues outside of just the month of February.