In the heart of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a remarkable young leader reflects a new era of Jewish leadership. Meet Micah Pierandri, an 18-year-old deeply involved with BBYO, both locally and on the international stage. Her journey, marked by personal experiences in Jewish communal spaces, and a commitment to inclusivity, led her to create MoCA, the Members of Color Alliance.
Micah’s story begins with a challenging experience at a BBYO summer camp, where she encountered racism. The fear of speaking out, coupled with concerns about potential backlash, initially kept her silent. However, as Micah began opening up about her experiences, others started reaching out to share their own stories. This surge of solidarity and understanding became the driving force behind MoCA.
Collaborating with fellow BBYO member Ariella Ayenesazan, Micah identified a significant gap in programming for non-white Jews within BBYO. She recalled, “Within the four years I was in BBYO, I attended maybe one members of color program.” Determined to fill this void, Micah and Aurelia launched MoCA in 2021.
The impact of MoCA exceeded expectations. Micah received overwhelming positive feedback, with support pouring in from BBYO staff, both local and international. The club became a safe haven for Jewish teens of color, providing a platform to share stories and combat racial issues. “I held little classes, where I told my story about combating racism as a Jews of Color and discussed how they can help combat it too,” Pierandri reflected. “It was important to have that open space to talk. And I always made it a safe place.”
Micah’s leadership journey took an impressive turn when she was asked to speak at BBYO’s international convention in front of 3,200 teens. She spotlighted MoCA’s mission, created a hangout and communal space for members, and established a safe space for Jewish teens of color.
Micah credits her childhood rabbi, Rabbi Marc Boone Fitzerman, a pillar in the community for nearly 30 years, as a significant inspiration in her Jewish and leadership journey. Rabbi Fitzerman’s encouragement during Yom Kippur, where Micah chanted Torah, left an indelible mark on her. “We saw your confidence in reading and anytime that you either stumbled or you got off track, you got right back on. You didn’t look up for help, you just kind of took a second, got back together, and were confident in you reading this part,” Micah recalls her rabbi saying. “My rabbi’s words will stick with me forever.”
For Micah, connecting with other Jews of Color holds profound meaning. She emphasizes the importance of creating a space where shared stories foster understanding and unity. The significance of meeting another Black person at BBYO resonates deeply, as Micah recalls, “Our first exact words to each other were, oh my God, another Black person.” Looking ahead, Micah’s vision is clear. She aims to encourage other Jews of Color to step into leadership roles without fear, so encountering other JoC in Jewish communities is the norm, instead of a surprising coincidence. Her advice: “Not only is it important to make sure you are heard but that you are also speaking out for those who can’t be heard. Your mental health is very important.”
Micah Pierandri’s leadership journey is not just about personal triumphs; it’s a beacon of hope for a more inclusive and limitless future of Jewish leadership.