Now is the time for white, white-passing and light-skinned Jews to listen carefully, to learn, and then to act.
Every small action is important: a donation to a Black organization, reaching out to a Black friend and offering a nonjudgmental, compassionate listening ear, having a conversation about the ways in which racism has infected and continues to infect our society and our selves.
It’s also important to note that the Jewish and Black communities are not only parallel but also intersect: there are many Black Jews and other Jews of color in our American Jewish communities. Ultimately, Jews of all colors, and people of all races, must recognize that our liberation is bound up with each other’s. I urge every white or white-passing or light-skinned Jew to read and to listen, with an open heart and mind, to the following pieces from Black Jews and other Jews of color:
- This article quoting several Jews of color, including my friend, Yiddish singer Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell.
- This piece by Shahanna McKinney-Baldon, one of the women who originated the term “Jews of Color.”
- This video of a talk from rabbinical student, musician and activist Koach Baruch Frazier.
- This video of a talk from Rabbi Shais Rishon, also known by his pen name MaNishtana.
- And, perhaps most importantly, this article by three Jews of color asking Jewish organizations to commit to explicit and active anti-racism work in our communities through seven clear action steps, framed in the traditional Jewish concept of obligation.
Listening and learning may not be comfortable or easy. It may even feel painful and scary. But, as Jewish tradition around comforting mourners instructs, we should wait for the mourner to speak first. Our primary responsibility is to listen.
Racism is a crime against humanity. It denies the dignity and infinite worth that we all share. Racism is also a crime against the Torah, which teaches that all human beings are created equal, in the Divine image. May we work speedily to bring the day when racism, hatred and violence have ceased.
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