As our August 12 launch of Beyond the Count: Perspectives and Lived Experiences of Jews of Color came to a close, Angel Alvarez-Mapp, our Director of Programs and Operations, concluded the panel discussion by asking me a simple question: what are my hopes and dreams for Beyond the Count?
Angel’s unplanned question ended up giving me some much-needed space to step back and take a bird’s-eye-view of the study. Our whole JoCI team and our incredible research team have been running fast for over a year to bring this study to fruition, putting our best into it every day. It is easy to get caught up in the details. I had rarely given myself time to reflect on my own hopes for the study.
I hope that we as the Jewish community choose to collectively wake each other up. The fact that 80% of the Jews of Color who took our survey said they have experienced discrimination in a Jewish communal setting shows us there is still much work to be done. In the spirit of Elul, our current Hebrew calendar month in which reflection, repair, healing, and awakening are central themes, I hope that Beyond the Count helps us realign ourselves with the possibility of what our beautiful community can be.
I hope that Beyond the Count makes you deeply reflect on where you see yourself within the story that the findings tell. This is not with the intention of wagging our fingers at each other. Simply put, we need to know who we are within the picture painted by the data so that we know what levers of power to pull to create change.
I hope the findings empower our community. We have to collectively commit to the path of anti-racism and racial justice. We have to accept that the Jewish community is not sustainable if racism exists among us, especially as our community becomes more and more diverse. I hope there is a chorus of “I’ve had enough” from every person in the Jewish community. From allies who are saying they’ve had enough of seeing their Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and multiracial siblings marginalized. From Jews of Color who know they are not alone and can stand together with each other and our accomplices. That collectively we have had enough of our communal slumber.
I hope the larger Jewish community can find inspiration in the community building and Jewish engagement that is happening among Jews of Color. I’ve seen time and again concerned boards wringing their hands about general Jewish community engagement. New ideas have been tried and tested one after the other, but not one has resolved the underlying community engagement challenge. These ideas are often developed in a vacuum, in all-white spaces, and they cost significant time and money but don’t generate community connection. Beyond the Count reveals some of the beautiful ways that Jews of Color are gathering, expressing our multifaceted identities, and building community around Jewish wisdom and values—despite all the headwinds. Jews of Color are creating environments where people feel like they can authentically belong, can show up as their full selves, can joyfully engage with our rich Jewish traditions, can see themselves reflected in their community, and take part in communal decision-making. If we want enriching and fulfilling Jewish communal engagement, we have to solve the problem of racism, and we have to honor the insights and leadership that are emerging from the community-building efforts of Jews of Color.
Our communal status quo harms not only Jews of Color but our entire Jewish community. We need to solve this together because we are one people. And this is our time.