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Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Diversity Statement

As an open and inclusive Jewish day school in the heart of Brooklyn, we strive to provide an unparalleled, modern academic home that is committed to the rich mosaic of Jewish life. We are committed to intentionally building this mosaic with our students, faculty, administration, and families through their diversity across ethnicity, race, nationality, Jewish identity and practice, interfaith family composition, sexual orientation, gender identity, life experiences, socio-economic status, perspectives and worldviews. We value the dignity and self-worth of each member of our community.

We believe in ensuring that our students are prepared to be global citizens who can be productive agents of change toward a more just world. Our core Jewish value of Openness/Elu v’Elu guides our work in building empathy, promoting tolerance, and valuing difference. We live this value daily at Senesh in our curriculum, programming, admissions, hiring, professional development, and dialogue with our broader community. It is integral to our ongoing journey/Masa as a school to embrace the complex conversation of diversity in the 21st century, which we believe will continue to make our school community even more vibrant and strong.

Transgender and Non-Binary Student Support Guidelines

Staff Training and Development

In partnership with prominent organizations, our faculty is engaged in ongoing training and development. Below are some examples:

  • Race and equity in the context of Jewish education, Facing History and Ourselves
  • Culturally responsive teaching, Facing History and Ourselves
  • Navigating conversations about current events, Facing History and Ourselves
  • Jewish Around the World: Holidays, Be’chol Lashon
  • Racial literacy, New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS)
  • Race for Jewish Educators, Jews in all Hues
  • Keshet Leadership Training

Curriculum

Faculty incorporated learnings from professional development in curricula across the school. The following is a list of some of this ongoing work:

  • Social emotional learning. By anchoring our learning to five core competencies of self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, responsible decision making, and social awareness, we are building an inclusive community with intention.
  • Holidays and rituals. Using holidays as an opportunity to celebrate diversity, students are learning how Jewish communities around the world celebrate Jewish holidays and rituals.
  • Embracing Jewish diversity in our own community. Celebrating the diversity of our own community, we look carefully at our practices and curriculum and lift up Jews of Color, LGBTQ+ Jews, and Jewish culture from around the world.
  • Building bridges through partnerships. In partnership with organizations such as Repair the World, Emma’s Torch, Project Ezra, and Brooklyn Autism Center, students form new relationships, gain skills, awareness, and experience being culturally competent in diverse settings.
  • Lower school social studies. We revised our social studies curriculum ensuring lower school students explore: individual and group identity, respecting what makes people different, standing up to injustice, prejudice, discrimination and exclusion.
  • Middle school humanities. In partnership with Facing History and Ourselves, our teachers are constantly iterating and deepening lessons on anti-semitism, current events and topics across the humanities curriculum.

Racial Equity and Justice

A focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is at the heart of our school’s mission and values, and our community is inspired to take our work to the next level of antiracism. Programs that will foster this evolution include the following:

  • Faculty members attending summer workshops and trainings through organizations such as Facing History and Ourselves
  • Antiracist faculty reading group
  • Antiracist training, provided by an outside organization, for all faculty and staff during August in-service, with continued/regular meetings throughout the school year
  • Parent workshops, organized by our parent diversity committee
  • On-going curricular examinations to ensure:
    • Discussions about race and identity begin in the younger grades and continue in all years
    • Teachers have had opportunities to discuss and reflect on their own racial identity and are willing to and comfortable with discussing race and identity with students
    • Our curriculum allows students to understand and recognize systemic and structural racism and oppression
    • Across our community parents and alumni have mobilized to take action by participating in book clubs, dialogues, and other events on this topic

Parent Diversity Programs

Sunday, November 15 at 8:30pm: Parent Diversity Committee Workshop: Jews, Race, Whiteness & Us
Register Here
In this workshop, facilitated by Bryan Susman Oren, Consultant for Equitable Jewish Education, we will examine whiteness and white supremacy and consider how Jews identify and are identified racially and religiously. We will begin with an exercise that inspires each of us to reflect on how race, religion, and our other social identities show up in our lives, and then discuss moments in US history during which Jewish communities were implicated in issues of racial equity and justice. Finally, we will explore ways to address whiteness and racism within our families and communities. 

Sunday, December 6 at 10:30am: Senesh Diversity Book Club
Email Senesh parent Martha Nadell at mnadell@gmail.com for Zoom link.
Please join us as we read and discuss books by a diverse group of writers. Our next book is Rebecca Walker’s Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, a moving account of the complexity of growing up biracial in the US. This discussion will be l
ed by Martha Nadell, PhD (Senesh parent and Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College, CUNY).
To purchase from a local bookseller, click here or you can download or borrow from the Brooklyn Public Library here (check timing for waitlist).

Please read about our past events here.

Past Programs and Events

Senesh has been working in partnership with Be’chol Lashon, an organization that supports learning around diversity and inclusivity within the Jewish community, to host several diversity initiatives throughout the year. Through a three-part diversity series, the Senesh parent body and local community explored Jewish identity, specifically as it relates to racial and ethnic diversity in the Jewish community. Be’chol Lashon also conducted a diversity training with our staff and as part of our goal to develop a holiday curriculum that includes customs and traditions of Jews of color and around the world, a small committee of Judaica teachers worked in partnership with Be’chol Lashon to update our K-8 holiday curriculum. With guidance from the Teaching Tolerance program, the K-8 social studies benchmarks and curriculum are being revised to reflect the goals set out in our diversity statement. We look forward to continuing this work, and to expanding benchmark revision to other curricula. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also led anti-bias workshops with our seventh and eighth graders, prompting many important and helpful conversations. In the past year, Senesh has held several events focused on diversity and inclusion, including:

  • Hanukkah Community Arts Event
  • MLK Day of Service
  • Sigd: A holiday among the Ethiopian-Jewish community
  • Simchat Torah with Indian dancing
  • Senesh Parent Diversity Committee Book Club
  • Book Fair: Jews Around the World Books
  • Senesh Parent Diversity Committee Conversation: Current Events, Race, and Racism
  • Senesh Parent Diversity Committee Monthly Workshop: The Origins and Legacy of Slavery, Race, and Racism

Click here to read about our past events.

Senesh in the News

A Four-Step Approach to Increasing Diversity in Jewish Day Schools in Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools

In Grappling with Race, Jewish Schools Rethink Approach to Jews of Color in Jewish Telegraphic Agency