• Why does OUDC exist?
• What is OUDC’s impact?
• Who can participate?
• What is the application process?
• How many students are in each class?
• How long is the program?
• How much are participants required to pay to join the program?
• Who funds the program?
• Are contributions to OUDC tax-deductible?
• How did the organization begin?
• Why is the program only for African American and Jewish students?
• What is an OUDC facilitation or workshop?
• Is Operation Understanding a national organization?
Why does OUDC exist?
Discrimination, in all its forms, continues to be America’s most insidious and pervasive problem. OUDC is based on a model which posits three steps to eradicating discrimination: education and dialogue, which leads to a change in behavior, and, ultimately, a change in attitude. OUDC fosters an environment that takes students through these steps during the year. All of our programs – the retreats, workshops and events – are designed to encourage a dialogue that forces our students to scrutinize and modify their own behavior and thoughts. The intense experiential learning that occurs during our programs, especially our Summer Journey, is the catalyst for modified behavior to turn into raised social consciousness and thus a change in attitude.
What is OUDC’s impact?
Thus far, more than 500 students and their families have directly participated in OUDC’s award-winning program, and, through their outreach efforts, over 65,000 students and adults have participated in fulfilling our overall goal—the elimination of all forms of discrimination.
OUDC recruits self-identified African-American and Jewish high school Juniors from all over the Washington metropolitan area. Students must have demonstrated leadership potential, inquisitiveness, maturity, and commitment to their community, as well as excellent communications skills. Our students attend a variety of public, private and charter schools in the greater Washington area and come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.
What is the application process?
Applications are accepted between October and November, and student interviews take place in December. Only students who submit their completed application by the deadline will be considered for an interview. (Please see the “Get Involved” section of our website for more information.)
How long is the program?
OUDC is a year-long program, from January of students’ junior year to January of their senior year. Graduates are called upon to make presentations and lead prejudice awareness and reduction workshops throughout the community until they graduate from high school.
Who funds the program?
Funding comes from generous, private donations from individuals, foundations, congregations, and corporations who share our vision of equality. Our largest expense is the three-week summer experience, which costs approximately $65,000.
How did the organization begin?
Operation Understanding DC was founded in 1993 by Karen Kalish. Karen was inspired by a similar program in Philadelphia started by The Honorable William H. Gray III, then a U.S. Congressman representing Philadelphia, and George M. Ross.
With more than one and a quarter million African Americans and 215,000 Jews in the D.C. metro area, Karen was sure such a program could have an enormous impact on, and make a major change in the deteriorating relationship between, the two groups in the nation’s capital.
Why is the program only for African American and Jewish students?
OUDC uses a two-community model to give students the opportunity to explore African American and Jewish cultures, religions and histories in-depth. By focusing on these two groups, who have had such similar universal histories of being subjugated, feared and maligned, our students graduate with a true understanding and appreciation of both communities.
In the United States, the history of Black-Jewish relations in the last century began as one of mutual cooperation toward common goals. For example, African Americans and Jews worked together to establish the NAACP in 1909 and the Urban League in 1910, and struggled and suffered in the fight for voting and civil rights through the 1960s. On Capitol Hill, African American and Jewish Members of Congress have historically shared common voting behavior and co-sponsored legislation ranging from support of Israel, divestment from apartheid-era South Africa and equal housing opportunities.
However, the successful accomplishments of the formal Civil Right movement, such as the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Acts, brought the end of the common goals that united Blacks and Jews. Since the 1970s, there have been several challenges that have divided these two communities: separatist groups, neighborhood tensions and international issues. Because programs for youth can help to reduce this discord as they develop into tomorrow’s leaders, OUDC brings together high school students from both communities to engage each other in a sustained, year-long dialogue.
We believe the comprehensive education we provide enables our students to be effective ambassadors for all forms of diversity. We encourage our students to regard their participation in OUDC as a springboard for exploring other cultures. Many alumni go on to study other languages in college, spend significant time living in other countries and make a concerted effort to have a diverse group of friends and colleagues.
What is an OUDC facilitation or workshop?
OUDC empowers students to combat discrimination and promote respect through their actions and by engaging our community in open, honest dialogue. By facilitating diversity workshops, our students provide their peers, younger students and adults with the opportunity to discuss their fears, ask questions and share their experiences by using age- and group-appropriate exercises. Students are trained to maintain a neutral position on discussion content; to engage all participants in the conversation; and to handle racist and offensive remarks.
Is Operation Understanding a national organization?
No, OUDC is not part of an umbrella organization. However, it is not the only Operation Understanding program in the country, such as the one in Philadelphia, PA. Our organizations strive to strengthen the relationship between the Black and Jewish communities through our young leaders, though we individually determine program curriculum, class size and admissions standards. In addition, each group has our own Board of Directors and is responsible for our own budget.
Operation Understanding DC is a service mark and trademark owned by a District of Columbia non-profit organization of that name operating exclusively in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Operation Understanding DC is not to be confused with the service mark and trade name Operation Understanding owned by a non-profit Pennsylvania organization of that name with a similar mission which operates throughout the United States and elsewhere, with the exception of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.