3 Pieces by Black Jews You Should Read Right Now

In this moment, we are being called as a country to dismantle the centuries-old structures of white supremacy that dehumanize and terrorize Black people — and to build a more just America in its place.

Many white people and non-Black people of color are taking this opportunity to educate themselves about the experience of Black people living in America, including on anti-Black racism and police brutality.

As a multiracial Jewish community, we must also do that work. We call for our Jewish community, especially white Jews, to rise up for Black lives using all of our spiritual, political and intellectual resources — and to also work to dismantle racism and white supremacy in our Jewish community.

Here are three reflections by Black Jews that we invite you to read right now to understand the impact of anti-Black racism on members of our community:

This moving reflection from Shekhiynah Larks shows us what the Jewish practice of shiva (Jewish mourning after a death) can teach us about reaching out in love to Black people and Black Jews in this moment.

How are we listening, caring for, and offering tangible support to our Black Jewish family? How are we honoring Black Jewish grief “without trying to constrain, correct, or fix it?” This is part of how we collectively shape a world where Black and Black Jewish children are fully free and thriving.

Read Shekhiynah’s piece in full at My Jewish Learning — “Black Jews Are Grieving, and We Need You to Help Us Mourn.”

Shekhiynah Larks is the program coordinator and a diversity trainer at Be’chol Lashon, as well as a Jeremiah Fellow with Bend the Arc.

Last week, JTA asked multiple Black Jewish leaders, artists, and thinkers to share their reflections in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade and the powerful uprisings in Minneapolis and across the country.

Ginna Green, Bend the Arc's former Chief Strategy Officer and current board member, called for our Jewish community to “embrace radical possibility” — channeling grief and rage to right our country’s systemic wrongs.

Read more from Ginna, April Baskin, Yitz Jordan, Anthony Russell, and more Black Jewish members of our community in JTA’s ”’Believe us': Black Jews respond to the George Floyd protests, in their own words.”

Ginna Green works in the Jewish community and the progressive movement — including with Bend the Arc — and sits on the boards of the Jews of Color Initiative, the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, and Political Research Associates.

Over the past few weeks (and decades),  we’ve seen multiple examples of how white people call and rely on the police to protect “white space” — places where Black people and people of color are viewed as threatening or unwelcome.1

Rebecca Pierce names and explores how this policing of white space exists in Jewish communal spaces — and how we “must actively work to dismantle the barriers that the white space creates for Jews of color seeking to engage in Jewish communal life.”

Read the full piece, “Jews of Color and the Policing of White Space,” at Jewish Currents.

Rebecca Pierce is a Black Jewish filmmaker and writer from the San Francisco Bay Area and a contributing writer for Jewish Currents. Her writing has been published in The Forward, The Nation, and +972 Magazine.


These are just three reflections from Black Jews in our community. Black Jewish organizers and thinkers have been sharing their lived experiences and doing this work for generations — and it is crucial for our entire Jewish community, especially white Jews, to learn, listen, and act.

As Enzi Tanner, a Minneapolis social worker and leader with Jewish Community Action, shared with JTA:

“As the Jewish community reaches in and says how do we support their cause and how do we support the black community, it’s really important that people reach in to black Jews and other Jews of color and realize that we’re here. And we need our community.”

Our Jewish community must continue to fight for Black lives and Black liberation. That also means looking inward, supporting and following Black Jewish leadership, and committing to ridding our communal spaces of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. Bend the Arc is committed to that journey, to learning from our mistakes, and to seeking our collective liberation with love and justice.

Thank you for joining us in this work,

The Bend the Arc team

 

Sources

1. Elijah Anderson, “The White Space.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.