We knew that Beyond the Count: Perspectives and Lived Experiences of Jews of Color would be an unprecedented study. In the study’s first phase, we created the largest dataset of Jews of Color in United States history through our “Count Me In” survey. Over 1,000 self-identified Jews of Color participated, providing responses that shaped the findings and will ultimately guide next directions for the field. Our research team’s integration of that survey data with in-depth qualitative interviews with 61 Jews of Color created a compelling report that details the simultaneously beautiful and alarming experiences of Jews of Color.
In powerful, often personal ways, Beyond the Count addresses experiences of racism and discrimination in the Jewish community. Survey participants discuss feelings of belonging and lack thereof, and the intersectionality of ethnic, racial, and cultural identities of Jews of Color. Eighty percent of survey participants agreed they have experienced discrimination in Jewish settings, and 66 percent agreed they have felt disconnected from their Jewish identity at times yet 67 percent of Jews of Color believe passing on Jewish identity to the next generation is “very important.” We hope the experiences recorded in the study serve as both community wake-up call and expression of deep commitment and love.
“After decades involved in this work, I was so honored and humbled by the number of JoCs who came forward to participate in this study and shared their experiences and perspectives,” says Ilana Kaufman, Executive Director of JoCI. “It was especially moving to see how many participants are committed to Jewish life have faced significant racism and discrimination. There’s so much potential atrophied by the energy spent navigating racism or being the only one in a communal context where such experiences just shouldn’t be.”
One interview participant reflected, “Being in JoC community spaces—whether it’s conferences or cohorts—adds value and meaning to being Jewish for me. Going to synagogue fills my need for my Jewish spirituality, and there is another spiritual need that I have: to be in JoC-only spaces.” These findings not only make a case for more communal funds to be directed to programming for Jews of Color but affirm efforts to date.
Beyond the Count helps make clear for our professional and communal ecosystem the enormous value of nurturing Jewish spaces that center and honor JoC. And it was the national response to the report itself that communicated how important Beyond the Count is to American Jews, and the wider, religiously integrated national community. Since its launch on August 12, 2021, Beyond the Count has been widely circulated across the United States, in the Jewish community and beyond. The report has been accessed on our own organizational website nearly 6,000 times; JoCI leaders have presented the report at 15 events nationwide—sharing the finding with many thousands. Beyond the Count is used in various college and university-based Jewish Studies settings, and it has influenced national discourse on Jews and race. National media, such as the New York Times and Washington Post have reported on the Initiative’s work, and highlighted the findings of Beyond the Count alongside those from the Pew Research Center—offering respect for, and affirming the relevance and rigor of, our research efforts as an integral part of the larger national discourse.
In the coming year, the Initiative will continue to disseminate the findings of Beyond the Count nationally as well as focus on regional presentations, such as in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Southern United States. We are also eager to support and learn from leaders in the field who are applying the study to their own efforts towards institutional change.
Deitra Reiser, Founder of Transform for Equity, an anti-racist consulting group, shared reflections on the study’s impact: “I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Ilana Kaufman and others present and reflect on Beyond the Count three times. Each time has taught me something new. During a presentation of Beyond the Count at the URJ, we collectively experienced the sadness and hope that come through the report. Leaving that evening, I knew that both the lay leaders and clergy in the Reform movement were ready for action.”
Research by and focused on Jews of Color provides insights and reveals learnings essential to a thriving multiracial Jewish community. As the Initiative looks to the coming year, we are eager to develop additional ways of strengthening the canon of research by and about Jews of Color so that what we know about the US Jewish community is powerfully informed by who we actually are as a US Jewish community.