Jews of Color Convening Report Back

Report Back by Leo Ferguson

From May 1st–3rd over 140 Jews of Color, Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews, JOC families, teens and youth gathered at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York City to participate in the Jews of Color National Convening, organized in partnership with the Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) and co-sponsored by Bend the Arc.

The convening was a historic gathering — the first step in a new direction for the Jewish community with a very clear message: Jews everywhere must commit to working for racial justice in coalition with People of Color-led movements, must advance the leadership of Jews of Color within the Jewish community, and must work for deeper diversity and inclusion in Jewish institutions. 

I’m taking away the love, support and solidarity of the JOCs community. I’m taking away the hope of success – that JOCs and their narratives, traditions and customs will occupy the center of the Jewish community. I’m taking away a sense of obligation — “it is our duty to win.”– Convening Participant

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The convening offered 25 workshops and trainings such as Community Organizing; Black Lives Matter and Jews of Color; and The Role of Mizrahim in our Racial Justice Movements. Musical performances and moving story-telling inspired and enriched participants’ connection to their own lived experience. The full-group strategizing sessions laid out vision and priorities for the work to come.

“This convening had an immense impact on me, in ways that I am still finding words to describe. It was powerful to see myself reflected among other JOCs and see the diversity within our stories and narratives and also the similar ways that white supremacy silences us and affects us. I literally found family and soulmates. I met people I want in my life forever. Looking around the room at the convening, on multiple occasions, I saw familiar faces, not because I had “met” many of the folks there before, but because I felt a genuine, deep, spiritual connection and felt like I was at home with family, and feeling what being with family should feel like.” – Convening Participant

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When we first began talking about this convening, almost a year ago, I could not have imagined how deep an impact it would have on our organization or our community. I could not have predicted what a powerful and transformative experience it would be for the participants or the organizers. The one thing that we all knew was that it was overdue — that Jews of Color needed this and the entire Jewish community needed to hear what we had to say. 

To get here I crossed into a space where I can bring my whole self and all of the contradictions, questions, privilege and challenges I embody and grapple with, not having to choose or silence one or another of my multiple identities. – Convening Participant

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But the other thing I could not have predicted was just how ready the JFREJ community was to come together and support this enormous effort. Without your support in a dozen different ways, none of this would have been possible. Thank you for being in this with us now and into the future.