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Race and Us

Community, Caring, & Belonging

BJ strives to be an inclusive community where people from all walks of Jewish life can find a spiritual home; over the years, we have intentionally asked how we can be a place of even greater warmth and embrace for those who often sit at the margins of the Jewish community. Race and Us is a year-long initiative that asks these questions with a specific focus on race and racial identity.

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.

We are grateful to the leadership of the Race and Us Steering Committee:

Vicki Abrams, Julie Kowitz Margolies*, and Eliana Slurzberg, chair

Bradley Abelow*
Martha Ackelsberg
Ted Berger
Ellen Bender
Nilda Torres Dicker
Sydney Greene
Carmen Keels
Paula Kramer Weiss*
Rabbi Shuli Passow
Judith Plaskow
Suzanne Schecter*
Lucy Slurzberg
Rabbi Felicia Sol
Michael Witman
Larissa Wohl
Ira Wolfman

*Indicates member of BJ board of trustees

View Previous Programs

A primary goal of this initiative is to understand the barriers to belonging that are uniquely felt by Jews of color. Watch previous programs in this series.

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Larissa Wohl

Larissa Wohl

Assistant Director of Community Engagement

Contact Us

Larissa Wohl

Larissa Wohl

Assistant Director of Community Engagement