Blog  Racial Justice is a Jewish Issue

Racial Justice is a Jewish Issue

The below poem was written by April Baskin (far left), the Union for Reform Judaism’s Vice President of Audacious Hospitality. It was performed at NFTY Convention 2017 by April, along with Alexa Broida (far right), the Director of Mitzvah Corps, and three teens (left to right): Emma Duhamel from NFTY Northeast Lakes Region, Sumner Lewis from NFTY Northeast Region, and Matt Salzman from NFTY Southern Tropical Region.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because we were once strangers in a strange land.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because we believe in the Jewish value of B’tzelem Elohim, that we are all made in the image of the Divine.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because we are in multi-racial Jewish community. 20% of Jews within the United States are Jews of color, including Sephardic and Mizrahi.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because as long as we’ve been a diaspora, we have been racially and ethnically diverse, with Jews from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America. Not to mention, there are even Jews who live in the hood. No, not the “chood” the actual hood. You just may not have met them…yet!

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because Jews come in ALL colors.

Aren’t we beautiful?!

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because more and more of our community are going to be Jews of Color as demographics in the United States change over time.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because Jews of color have served, and currently do serve, as NFTY leaders on the North American, regional, and local levels.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because racial injustice is an enduring dilemma that continues to plague our country and destroy lives.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because we, as a Jewish community still have work to do. We have to eradicate the racism and segregation that has crept into our culture and community, and we are taught justice, justice, we MUST pursue.

It’s not easy or comfortable, but we must address the racial injustice within our own Jewish community, because we will only be effective as a movement when ALL our voices are amplified.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because the refugee ban does not only affect Muslims but Jews who are from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Iran.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because both anti-Semitism and racism are outgrowths of white supremacy, and only when the Jewish community learns to work in coalition more effectively with communities of color will we be able to effectively organize to dismantle racism in America.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because the Jews who co-founded the NAACP with prominent black leaders affirmed in 1909 that black lives matter and are worthy of advancement.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because even though North American Jews are predominately white, history has taught us that our status as white people only gets us so far, depending on political climate and how many allies are willing to courageously stand next to us.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because history has taught us that our success helps us advance but is ultimately not what keeps us safe when anti-Semitism spikes. What keeps us safe is our meaningful and deep transformative relationships across lines of faith, class and race/ethnicity.

Racial justice is a Jewish issue because children in our community aren’t taught that nearly all the people in the Torah were brown and black people. Moses’s wife Tzipporah was black. Did you know Moses had a multiracial family? And he wasn’t the only one. All of our other matriarchs and patriarch were brown and black as well! Yet our religious school books don’t display that. Why is that? That needs to change.

An excellent first step is to center and support the presence and leadership of Jews of Color in NFTY and beyond. Shout out to all the Jews of Color in the room tonight!

And for those of us white Jews, part of our work is to be courageous, yet humble allies to people of color first and foremost and, just as important, step up and lead others in doing the same.

Alright, one more time, y’all, let’s hear it:

Racial justice is a Jewish issue!

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