A Vidui for Racism

By Samantha Thal
man kneeling in the ocean under sunlight

Each year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we beat our chests and engage in a communal confession. Looking back on a year, it can be difficult to pinpoint specific mistakes or failures. The beauty of a communal confession is that we take on all these failures together. We confess to an alphabet of sins, covering all our wrongs from A to Z. We take responsibility for ourselves and everyone around us. We accept that no matter how hard we try, we are not perfect, and in our admitting, we are committing to try to be better.

As we enter the month of Elul, we begin a traditional period of reflection in preparation for the High Holidays. This year has brought to light an alphabet of sins we have avoided admitting. Our failure to acknowledge these wrongs has cost lives. It has caused exclusion and alienation within our own communities. It has gone on too long. Now we will take responsibility. Now we will feel this pain we’ve been ignoring, this pain we’ve been causing. We will take it on as a community of individuals, working to be better.


A Vidui for Racism

We have abstained from uncomfortable growth.
We have belittled the pain of our fellow humans.
We have complied with social pressures.
We have desensitized ourselves to the suffering of others.
We have engaged in performative activism.
We have forgotten how to dream.
We have grown accustomed to our power.
We have heard the cries and chosen to stay silent.
We have ignored our personal responsibility.
We have joined the path of least resistance.
We have killed innocent people through our silence.
We have laughed to avoid confronting problematic behavior.
We have made excuses instead of listening.
We have not used the power of our voices.
We have oppressed others for our own gain.
We have perpetuated racist systems in our society.
We have questioned the severity of the situation.
We have robbed children of their innocence.
We have stood idly by in the face of wrongs.
We have taught a false narrative.
We have undermined movements for change.
We have valued property over life.
We have walked away from a chance to help.
We have been xenophobic.
We have yelled to mask our fear.
We have zealously guarded the status quo.

For all these sins, may we earn forgiveness, through our actions, through our learning, through our change of heart.


First published by The Jewish Center for Justice.

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