We are living in an historic time. The world is changing at such a rapid pace, sometimes it feels as though it’s changing minute by minute. The deaths of George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Breonna Taylor, Chantel Moore, and countless other Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) have inspired a global movement for social justice and the acknowledgment of harm caused by systemic racism.
WJT is a theatre built to serve the Jewish community, a marginalized community that has been victim to racialism and white supremacy. This is a time for us to stand with members of targeted and marginalized communities to take action against white supremacy and systems of oppression by being actively anti-racist and reflecting on ways in which we have been complicit in racist systems.
Over the past few weeks, the local and national theatre communities have deeply engaged in conversations about racism and oppression in the theatre industry. It has been a time of active listening and WJT is committed to enabling change through what we have learned so far. Here is a list of action items we are undertaking to strengthen anti-racism practices throughout the company:
Anti-Racism Consultation: WJT has engaged the help of a cultural and anti-racism consultant to promote intercultural awareness in all of our practices.
- Our relationship with cultural and anti-racism consultant Seraph-Eden Boroditsky is ongoing.
Anti-Oppression Training: The WJT staff and board will participate in anti-oppression training to further inform all facets of the organization’s operations, policies, and protocols.
- The WJT board and staff will participate in anti-oppression training led by Seraph-Eden Boroditsky (Guided Conversations Canada) in early 2021.
Safe Space Reporting: We will establish a third-party confidential reporting process to create a safe space for artists to report racism and harassment.
- WJT is working with Acuity HR Solutions to create a stronger and safer reporting system.
- WJT’s artistic and managing director has completed anti-racism courses through the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso and through the Alliance of Jewish Theatres and Be’chol Lashon.
Intersecting Works: We will continue to produce and develop works that explore the intersections of Jewish identity and culture with the identities and cultural experiences of other communities.
- Currently, WJT has provided seed money to begin development on a new work exploring Indigenous and Jewish identities by Anishinaabe and Ashkenazi theatre artist Tamara Podemski. Announcement of support of intersectional works will be ongoing.
Cultural Consultants: When appropriate, we will continue to engage consultants to ensure respectful rehearsal processes and creative team support on all culturally specific works.
IBPOC Apprenticeships: We will continue to offer apprenticeship opportunities to IBPOC artists to work in various capacities with creative teams.
Under my leadership, WJT has taken the Jewish philosophy of Tikkun Olam, which means repairing the world, as a guiding principle in all that we do because Tikkun Olam is also a call to action for the pursuit of social justice. When it comes to fighting anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism the work is never done, much like the continuous efforts to battle antisemitism and participate in Reconciliation. In the list above, some of the actions have been ongoing during my tenure and some are new initiatives. As we continue to engage in dialogue and reflection, the learning will continue, the work will deepen, and more actions will be added to the list.
We produce plays on Treaty One land in a multicultural city with a vibrant theatre community. While WJT’s mandate is committed to the continued cultivation and sharing of Jewish culture, I wholeheartedly believe we must also remain dedicated to investigating the similarities and differences between cultures to keep our artistic practice relevant and necessary on stage. I also believe we must unite in the struggle for respect of our cultural identities off stage and out in the world to truly encompass the spirit of Tikkun Olam.
With great respect,
Artistic and Managing Director