Historically, Jews of color (JoC) have faced numerous barriers to accessing equitable inclusion and meaningful leadership opportunities in the Jewish community. In response, JALSA began conducting a series of one-on-one conversations with JoC to understand how we could create opportunities for JoC to add their unique perspectives and ideas to the Jewish social justice landscape in Massachusetts.

During these conversations, we heard stories about how incidents of racism and antisemitism, both here in our state and across the country, have impacted JoC, who are trying to navigate these challenging times through a lens of their Jewish and racial identities. For example, one participant said that because she is perceived as Black, people embraced her when there were racist actions. When there were antisemitic incidents, however, and she was hurting just as much, very few people understood her pain in those moments because not many people knew that she was Jewish.

In Judaism, we are very accustomed to creating designated sacred spaces. In the Torah, the materials and process of building the tabernacle is explained in tremendous detail, and the Book of Kings recounts the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem nearly 500 years later. Both the tabernacle and the Temple were physical spaces for elevated spirituality and sanctity.

When building the tabernacle, God commanded Moses, “Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts; you shall accept gifts for me from every person whose heart moves them” (Exodus 25:1). Just like in creating the sacred space of the tabernacle for which every person was tasked with contributing a part of themselves, in this new JoC initiative, we are inviting everyone to bring their own experiences to the group.

JALSA’s JoC initiative will be an inclusive and sacred space where JoC can offer their ideas and perspectives on the public policy issues that directly impact our community. We also intend this space to be multigenerational to reflect JALSA’s approach to diverse community engagement. We have started to form a JoC Advisory Committee, and our next step is to hold a “roundtable” to foster a discussion about which public policy issues and tactics (such as community organizing, advocacy, legal actions, education, etc.) JoC want to embrace as part of this initiative.

This commitment to ensuring an equitable seat at the table for JoC in Jewish social justice work is critical to both building an explicit anti-racist ethic within Jewish communities and to nourishing the strength and diversity of our coalition movements.  

If you or someone you know identifies as a Jew of color, we want to hear from you. Please fill out our JALSA Jews of Color Leadership Initiative Interest Form so we can arrange to have a conversation with you and invite you to upcoming JALSA JoC initiative events.

If you want more information about this initiative, contact JALSA community organizer Maria Rosario at maria@jalsa.org or 617-227-3000.

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