According to a recent study presented at UJA-Federation of New York, Jews of color—including Black, Latinx, Asian, and biracial Jews—now account for at least 12% of the Jewish population in the United States; however, most American Jewish institutions, including B’nai Jeshurun, do not reflect this degree of diversity. To a large extent, we know why: We have heard too many stories of marginalization felt by Jews of color who are BJ members, here in our own community.
A primary goal of the initiative is to understand the barriers to belonging that are uniquely felt by Jews of color. What assumptions do we make on the basis of skin color about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ of the Jewish community? How are those assumptions expressed, and what is the impact of those words and actions?
Because it is not possible to investigate these questions without examining the larger context of American society in which we live, a second goal is to study how the history and role of race in America has shaped us and our institutions. We will look at the places where racism, both explicit and implicit, has created enduring inequity. And we will confront the realities of racism that America has never adequately grappled with, so that we can fulfill our moral and religious obligation to take part in the soul searching our country deeply needs.
Race and Us will educate us: on the historical and present-day realities of race in the Jewish community and in this country, and on what we can do to address the interconnected dangers of antisemitism and racism.
It will inspire us: to honor the growing diversity at BJ and in the wider Jewish community, and to celebrate the richness that such diversity brings to our collective Jewish lives.
And it will challenge us: to do the internal work that will allow us to build a true culture of belonging at BJ, and take seriously our responsibility to join the widening national conversation about race in America.