This month Periphery, an exhibition about Jews of Color (JOC) opened in Toronto, Canada. A collaboration between the group No Silence on Race and the Ontario Jewish Archives, Periphery shares the voices and faces of Canadian Jews who are often not seen in the mainstream presentations of Jewish life. We at Be’chol Lashon sat down with members of the No Silence on Race team to learn more about them and their work.
Team Be’chol Lashon: Tell us a little about yourselves
The No Silence on Race core team is Sara Yacobi-Harris, Akilah-Allen Silverstein and Yoni Belete. We are 3 young professionals based in Toronto, Canada.
Sara is a multidisciplinary artist, media professional and recent Masters of education graduate from the University of Toronto. She directed and produced Periphery.
Akilah is a Certified Financial Planner and Registered Retirement Consultant with Mandeville Private Client Inc and has established her own brand Silverstein Wealth which has adopted the mantra – Integrity, Professionalism & Diligence which highlights her commitment to excellence and fiduciary duty.
Yoni is a communications professional who is currently a consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations. Prior to joining NATIONAL, Yoni was the Director of Speechwriting and Public Relations at the Embassy of Israel in Ottawa. A proud member of the Ethiopian Jewish community, Yoni is passionate about highlighting the diversity that exists throughout the Jewish Diaspora.
BL: Tell us about how you came together and formed No Silence On Race and your vision:
No Silence on Race is a movement born of the necessity for both racial equity and inclusivity within Canadian Jewish spaces. In addition to our open letter, we devised 9 pillars as a foundation and guide intended to support Jewish congregations, federations, foundations, organizations, nonprofits and initiatives in their transformation towards greater inclusivity and equity. Our vision is to build inclusive Jewish spaces that are reflective of the diversity that exists within our communities and throughout our history using education, art and culture as our mediums. Our platform provides a space for Jews of colour to share and celebrate their unique cultures, complexities, and perspectives with one another and the broader community. Through advocacy art & culture and JOC community building, No Silence on Race is encouraging Jewish individuals and institutions to adopt a more holistic understanding of both Jewish history and identity. In doing so, we seek to ensure that the voices of Jews from minority communities are recognized and heard.
BL: Tell us about Periphery, the video and the exhibition:
Periphery was a natural evolution and continuation of a documentary project conceived by No Silence on Race co-founder, Sara Yacobi-Harris in 2016 titled Who is a Jew? As the momentum for No Silence on Race grew over the last year, it became a natural fit for our team to continue our advocacy and education work through art, creating content to bear witness to the ethnic diversity in the Jewish community. Sharing narratives from individuals of multiracial and multiethnic backgrounds, Periphery creates space to look, listen, and learn from participants as they share their experiences and explore ideas of representation, intersectionality, ethnicity, race, and sexuality. Periphery also draws our attention inwards and invites us to examine how we foster and support a broader and richer view of the Jewish community. Together, these voices call us to act upon our Jewish values and create Jewish spaces that are truly inclusive of the individuals that seek a sense of place within them.
BL: What are some of your plans for the future?
Our goal is to utilize our platform to redefine and re-imagine Jewish identity today, creating more space for intersectional Jewish identity in all its nuance and complexities, shaping the current and future narratives of our communities.
As we continue to expand the work we are doing at No Silence on Race from a call to action into a space for community building and education through content creation and preservation, we are in the process of building an arts & culture collective dedicated to intersectional Jewish narratives and histories in the Canadian Jewish community and creating more content by Jewish artists of colour featuring Jewish people of colour in Canada. Join our mailing list or follow us on instagram to stay tuned!
BL: Where are you finding hope/inspiration right now?
In each other and in our latest project, Periphery. We have received an abundance of positive feedback from both within the Jewish community and outside of it and these responses re-affirm the importance and urgency of the work we are doing.
View the short Documentary here at Periphery Exhibit