Justice, Equity and Inclusion in a Dayenu Circle

In this resource:

Grounding your Dayenu Circle in equity and justice

As we raise a bold Jewish voice to address the climate crisis, your Dayenu Circle serves not only as a hub for action, but also for modeling what it means to build an inclusive and equitable climate movement alongside communities directly impacted by climate change and environmental injustice.

This resource will help you understand how to build an inclusive and equitable Dayenu Circle, as well as how to connect with communities who are seeking justice for the adverse impacts they’ve experienced because of the climate crisis and the inequities it exacerbates.

As we shared in What is a Dayenu Circle and Why Should I Start One?, climate work and justice are deeply intertwined. The impact of the climate crisis rests disproportionately on those who have been historically marginalized: people living in the global south, in poverty, in particularly vulnerable areas, and people who experience racism and other kinds of bigotry such as Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.

That’s why Dayenu and its Circles work arm-in-arm with communities that are directly impacted by, and most vulnerable to, the climate crisis, raising our voices alongside theirs. By centering these communities, we can together envision and build a new reality: to dismantle inhumane systems, establish a just and equitable clean energy economy, and create a livable, sustainable world.

Creating Inclusive Dayenu Circles

Building an inclusive climate movement focused on justice starts with your Dayenu Circle. Within your Circle, you can practice the behaviors and skills needed to bring in those on the margins, and to help everyone raise their voice in this work.

So how do we create “inclusive action spaces that work to dismantle racism and hate”?

Training for Change inspires us to start by asking, “Whose interests are recognized most within our Dayenu Circle?” This will help your Circle identify who is in the “mainstream” (those whose interests are recognized through the norms, behaviors, and structures of the Circle) and who is on the “margin” (those who are present, but whose interests go unrecognized). The ultimate goal is for the Circle to be aware of, and then change, the relationship with those on the margins.

For example, you might find that within your Dayenu Circle, the needs, schedules, and interests of parents with school-age children are centered, even though there are also non-parents and empty nesters in your Dayenu Circle. Alternatively, you may find that the group’s white or Ashkenazi Jewish voices are being centered, even though there may be people of color and/or multiracial individuals in your Circle. As Jews, and members of Dayenu Circles, we aspire to uphold our value of b’tzelem Elohim, to see everyone as the image of God, and to acknowledge each person’s full human worth and dignity. If the voices and interests of “marginal” groups are not heard and negotiated, we are not fully in alignment with our values; furthermore, these members may disengage and distance themselves from the group over time. The climate crisis is massive and affects all of us; we need everyone in this work for climate action to be effective.

Here are some ways to build a more inclusive Dayenu Circle:

  1. Start with recruitment. When asking new folks to join your Dayenu Circle, actively reach out to people who identify differently than you (ie, because of race, age, gender expression, ethnicity, culture, etc.).
  2. Let people self-identify. At meetings, encourage people to wear name tags that include their names and preferred gender pronouns. (If meetings are online, encourage people to edit their names so that they are accurate and include pronouns.)
  3. Create many ways to participate. Some people can only meet at certain times; others may have a skill that is invisible but valuable to the work. Invite people to offer up the ways in which they can and want to participate in the Circle’s work.
  4. Share meeting materials in advance. Some people need time to process and reflect on what’s on the agenda so that they can participate optimally.
  5. Be transparent. Always design your meetings as if new members are present: provide context for each agenda item, avoid jargon, and define any terms (especially those that relate to advocacy or climate science) that are not part of everyday use.
  6. Rotate leadership. Invite new Circle members to volunteer to lead subsequent meetings, and rotate new people (particularly those from the “margins”) into the Circle’s core leadership so that each member can shape the Circle’s work over time.
  7. Consider group decisions. Does your circle use majority-rules voting, or consensus? Try something new next time.
  8. Stay accountable. Ensure that the Circle’s leadership is regularly checking in with one another—and especially with the “margin” members—to evaluate and stay accountable to your Circle’s commitment to inclusivity, and continue to iterate where needed. If needed, there are many online resources about creating inclusive group practices and meetings, including these from Indivisible and Harvard Business Review.
Connecting with and centering communities most impacted by climate change

Just as we work to build inclusive Dayenu Circles where all members can thrive, we strive to build connections with and center communities most impacted by climate change in order to achieve justice and impact through our climate actions.

Alongside the work that your Circle will be doing on a national level (like advancing federal climate policy, and engaging in the Just, Green Recovery campaign), we also encourage you to connect with local climate and environmental justice groups in your own community. Chances are you will be able to identify some common goals with these groups and have the opportunity to build real, equitable relationships with those who have been leading this work on the front lines.

Here are some first steps you can take to connect with local groups:

Start with principles. Our Jewish values guide us to create equitable and just relationships within our Circles and beyond – and especially when we connect with communities most impacted by climate change (which are disproportionately Black, Brown and Indigenous communities). Take some time within your Dayenu Circle to reflect on the principles that guide your work and discern what they mean in practice. How will they inform how you build bridges and relationships with local groups?

Find local groups. There are many ways to identify local climate and environmental justice groups; here are a few places to start:

Set a foundation for just, equitable relationships. When you reach out to the groups you’ve identified, remember to enter this work humbly. The groups to whom you are reaching out have likely been working on climate justice for a long time and thus carry a great deal of wisdom, victories, social capital, and lived experience as activists from which you can learn. Here are some practical tips:

  • Schedule a get-to-know-you meeting online or in-person during which the local group and your Dayenu Circle can each share your stories (and invite the local group to share their story first);
  • Understand in which ways the local group would like for your Dayenu Circle to show up and what roles they could envision your Circle playing;
  • Ask the local group the best way for your Circle to stay updated on the actions for which they would like involvement;
  • See if the local group is in need of particular resources (skills, meeting space, people, knowledge, etc.) so that your Circle can share them when possible and if needed;
  • Especially in the beginning, don’t expect every organizer to welcome you right off the bat with open arms (it’s possible that their group may have had negative past experiences with other new climate action groups). It takes time to build trust.
  • For more on building just and equitable relationships, we recommend checking out the Jemez Principles, developed by the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice.

Climate justice work is all about building relationships—within your Circle, with local climate groups, and also within your Jewish community(s). We invite you to release the pressure of doing this work “perfectly”; as we know from our own friendships and families, building and maintaining trusting relationships can be non-linear, messy and immensely rewarding work. It’s about staying committed to the relationships, and being open to learning from feedback and mistakes along the way.

When the moment for action and advocacy comes, your Circle can come to the table ready with the relationships and people—and thus the power—that’s needed to bring about real change.