Black Lives Matter

Black and Jewish voices for Black lives

October 9, 2020

We hold Black members of the Jewish community in love and solidarity.

The Torah commands us to listen.

Here we offer a place to start listening to Black Jewish voices.

Who will protect my sons in the face of racism and prejudice and profiling? Who will protect me? — Kenny Kahn

For the majority of my life, racism, discrimination, and bias have been at the forefront of my existence. — Aviva Davis

I think that is what it means to be Jewish; I think that is what it means to be Black—to know the truth so well, even when the rest of the world denies its existence. And yet, we still find time to celebrate. We find time to dance, and drink, and love, even when we are surrounded by a vortex of impossible. — Aaron Samuels


For the first time in my life, I am not a minority. My Blackness does not define me; it is the norm. I am the norm, existing beyond my identities. In that moment, I belong to Judaism, to the Jewish people. — Celeste Jackson


From black-eyed pea hummus spiked with homemade horseradish harissa to matzoh-meal fried chicken cooked in shmaltz, to peach noodle kugels touched with garam masala, Afro-Ashkefardi is my way of cooking Jewish. — Michael W. Twitty


I struggled for many years trying to articulate who I was or how I wanted the world to perceive who I was. It wasn’t until I began working [there] as an intern in college that I really considered that articulating identity was a skill that had to be learned. — Shekhiynah Larks


I, too, reach out to many. My dual identity has inspired me to strive to be the common denominator, the bridge builder between my race and all religions. — John Eaves


Our existence as a family unit scared, challenged, and enraged people who did not want to acknowledge what we represented, the inevitable future we perhaps symbolized. — Tova Harris


My vision as a Jew of color, as a rabbi, as a member of the millennial generation, and as a social activist who seeks to create visibility for those who are unseen, is to create platforms for our collective wisdom as Jews to be heard, because for too long, our wisdom has been silenced. — Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein


“You know Black people can’t be Jewish, right?” I did everything I could to avoid being seen as a strange little Black Jewish girl. I realized that asserting my identity was a revolutionary act, as well as an act of liberation. — Ayeola Omolara Kaplan


Identity. It is not only the color of our skins. Ultimately, who we are is as mysterious as the universe in which each of us is mere dust. — Julius Lester


But I know who I am. My voice. My point of view. My beauty. My body. My skin color. My Judaism. — Marra Gad


[It] was the first time I was able to have an open discussion about my identity and life experiences with Jews of color my age. It was really cathartic. — Elijah Gordon


It infuriates me that this is beyond my control, that this must be part of my legacy to them. I need America’s help, and America has let me down. I must depend on an entire nation to wake up and keep my children safe from hatred. — Marcella White Campbell


“I’m Jewish.” “Well, so am I!” I said, and we both fell back laughing. I had been pulling the “Surprise! I’m Black and Jewish!” trick practically since birth, and had 30 more years experience being a Black Jew than he did. — Robin Washington


My Judaism is something incredibly personal and special to me. I do not want it to be interrogated or invalidated. — Rosie Poku


I spend most of my time dealing with one past or another. There’s my ethnic past and present as an African-American. There’s my acquired past as a convert to Judaism and a Jewish educator. And finally, there’s the past in my work as artist: previously as an opera singer and presently as a performer of Yiddish. — Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell


I wanted to be a rabbi because I was sure it was my destiny. I felt like it was what God had called me to do. — Rabbi Isaama Goldstein-Stoll


The light of Judaism can even illuminate the realm of hip-hop. — Prodezra


As a parent I’ve learned how important it is to walk the walk when I want to impart unique and formative experiences to my kids around race. — Lacey Schwartz Delgado


For the very first time in my entire life, as a half-Black, half-White member of the Jewish community, I have begun owning my identities. — Evan Traylor


I am professionally committed to children’s education and women’s rights and empowerment, having worked for the rights of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Like my mother, I am committed to my own dreams of achieving the highest levels of education so that I can give back to my community and women and children in poverty all over the world. — Bezawit Abebe


One of the things I like to emphasize about my KosherSoul side is that both the Jewish and African diasporas have been absorbed and have absorbed all of the places we have been. Where have we been? Every corner of the earth. — Michael W. Twitty


We read in the Haggadah that “in every generation, we are commanded to see ourselves as one leaving Egypt.” This is because slavery wears a different cloak in different generations, and we have to see ourselves, see it for ourselves, and understand it in order to help those who are currently stuck in its grasp. — Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum


This synagogue will be a holy place where the Abayudaya can gather for prayer. It will be a community center for everyone, a gathering place for Christians and Muslims too because we foster good relations and live in peace with our neighbors. — Rabbi Gershom Sizomu


Becoming more observant has increased my connection to Hashem. I know that Hashem has given us a guide to live by, despite the fact that we may not always understand the reasons why. — Yasminah Respes


[My grandfather] couldn’t model for me how to be a person of color. And in a perfect world, one shouldn’t have to teach that. But he taught me how to be a good person. — Michael J. DeYoung


Today, the tears have not dried. The Torah reminds us that death is a natural part of life, nothing to be feared. But this death, this is not natural. It’s a nightmare. The kind that shakes you to your core. The kind that leaves you feeling naked and alone. — Shekhiynah Larks


For some people, fitting into the status quo is soothing, comforting, peaceful. Not for me. For me, seeking a life of truth, has brought me peace. — Mordechai Ben Avraham Hazzan


As I wrote these words to my daughter, I imagined my congregation humming hine ma tov umanayim, shevet achim gam yachad—how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to come together—and that’s when my tears of rage spilled over. — Marcella White Campbell


While we all identified as Jews of Color, we had many different lived experiences. There were Jews who felt completely loved and embraced by the Jewish community, and Jews who felt alienated and excluded from the Jewish community. The most important takeaway is that there is not just one way to be a Jew of Color. — Aaron Samuels


I now live back in the U.S., but Israel is still home to me. I think about it every day. There is something unique about living in a country that celebrates all of the Jewish holidays and welcomes all Jews. — Yasminah Respes


The Hebraic side of my African-American and Jewish family was extremely Reform and God-optional at best. — Robin Washington


For as long as both my mother and I can remember, I have been attending [camp]; a place where I immediately feel at home, surrounded by my fellow Jews of all colors. At [camp], I am free to be who I am: an energetic, fun-loving, Black, White, and Jewish teenager. — Aviva Davis


Having grown up spending time in Ferguson, served as a police officer in Columbia, Missouri, and a career as a criminal defense attorney, I had lots of personal reactions to the death of Michael Brown. After the news broke about his death the inevitable media rush to the bottom began to occur. — Victoria Washington


My mom is my hero because she has the strength to accomplish the seemingly impossible. — Alyssa Bracha McMillan


I’ve always found comfort in the and of my identity — that simple part of speech that joins together two disparate things: two families, two histories, two cultures, two heritages, two skin colors, two lineages of trauma, two pathways to North America. — Tema Smith


I used to be terrified to sing in front of people, and I still get nervous playing the guitar in front of people, but Judaism and my dream of becoming a rabbi has unlocked my voice. Now I sing all the time and find so much comfort in it. — Rabbi Sandra Lawson


The Black hair question was never more spiritually apparent to me than in the days before my conversion to Judaism. — Shekhiynah Larks


Finding an identity is an integral step to growing up in this crazy, confusing and kind of hostile world. — Elle Shayna Wisnicki


I am here, and I am proud because I am mixed with the two races who experienced the most hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and racism in the world, but still manage to be here. — Paige Jones DeYoung


I felt that metaphysical burden of history because I realized how much racism shaped the world that I lived in and the people, places and things in it. — Lindsey Newman


What a blessing to discover! That is when I started aggressively wanting to make a Jewish life for myself. Yes, I knew observance was hard and I thought briefly that many may not be happy to see my brown face when I wanted to attend religious events but I was doing this regardless. — Stephanie Ambroise


Before my time in the US, I felt that I needed to balance my Orthodox life with my secular life. But now, I realize that this is my Jewish life and that I can love and embrace both without having them contradict one another. — Pnina Agenyahu


Black history and the suffering of the Israelites are part of the same story. We have always been intertwined in our experiences as slaves, persecuted peoples, and as allies. — Tarece Johnson


This cannot be overstated: Diversity and inclusivity benefit all Jews. Jews have lived on every continent for millennia. Birth, intermarriage, conversion and adoption have all contributed to continual change and growth. Diversity has always been — and will always be — fundamentally Jewish. — Marcella White Campbell


Pesach means having the freedom to spend our time living our priorities. Pesach means being able to find a way to leave a legacy for our future generations. It means waking up in the morning knowing that I’m fulfilling my purpose in life. — Yasminah Respes


It’s hard to be seen as part of the group when externally you look so different. In the US especially because Jews create safe spaces for themselves, looking like you might be an outsider comes with questioning. — Shekhiynah Larks

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