‘Believe us’: Black Jews respond to the George Floyd protests, in their own words

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, Social Work, United States on 2020-06-14 00:18Z by Steven

‘Believe us’: Black Jews respond to the George Floyd protests, in their own words

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Josefin Dolsten, Staff Writer

Top left, clockwise, April Baskin, Anthony Russell, Yitz Jordan and Tema Smith. (Baskin: Jill Peltzman; Russell: Courtesy of Russell; Jordan: Courtesy of Jordan; Smith: Courtesy of Smith)

(JTA) — As Enzi Tanner participated in an online havdalah ceremony marking the end of Shabbat Saturday night, his city — Minneapolis — was being torn apart during a fifth night of unrest following the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody there last week.

Tanner, a social worker who supports LGBT families experiencing homelessness, said the ceremony — hosted by Jewish Community Action, a local social justice group, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a national organization and Edot Midwest Regional Jewish Diversity Collaborative — conveyed a powerful message for black Jews like him.

“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,” Tanner said. “And we need our community.”

We reached out to black Jews like Tanner to understand their feelings at this wrenching moment and what their message is for the broader Jewish community. Here’s what they told us…

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Jews of Color Get Personal and Political at First-Ever National Gathering

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, United States on 2016-05-09 00:12Z by Steven

Jews of Color Get Personal and Political at First-Ever National Gathering


Sigal Samuel, Opinion Editor

If you want to get black Jews, Mizrahi Jews and a Palestinian-American Muslim to burst into tears at the same time, invite Yavilah McCoy to talk about hair.

Speaking at the opening plenary of the Jews of Color National Convening, which took place May 1–3 in Manhattan, McCoy gestured at the woman beside her, a fellow black Jewish leader named April Baskin . “I was there one night when she was just a girl and she was crying with joy on the shoulder of another black woman, because that was the first time she’d worn her hair in a full afro in a Jewish space — the first time she felt like she could show up as her full self.”

Hearing this memory brought to life, Baskin teared up and diverted her gaze from the 100-plus Jews of color who had piled into the synagogue sanctuary at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which hosted the conference.

But McCoy wasn’t done. She turned to the audience and said, “Everyone here needs to hear this: You are beautiful. You are gorgeous. Anyone who told you otherwise was lying in the name of white supremacy.”…

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Meet April Baskin, the Multiracial Face of Reform Judaism

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-11-30 01:57Z by Steven

Meet April Baskin, the Multiracial Face of Reform Judaism


Allison Kaplan Sommer (Haaretz)

Image: Haaretz

See also: “Black and Jewish: New Reform Leader Works to Bring Marginalized Groups Into the Tribe” on 2015-11-25 from Haaretz.

To meet April Baskin is to see the change in American Jewry personified. A tall, confident, 32-year-old with an impressive mane of curly hair and a wide smile, the self-described “multiracial Jewish woman of color” is the newest executive in the Reform Jewry movement.

Her offbeat job title—vice president for audacious hospitality—incorporates the catchphrase that the Union for Reform Judaism has embraced as its central mission. It is meant both to include aggressively welcoming newcomers into its institutions, along with widening its tent by inviting groups that have traditionally felt marginalized from mainstream Jewish institutional life – this includes interfaith couples and families, as well as adults who grew up in interfaith homes, LGBT Jews, Jews with disabilities, unaffiliated Jews and multiracial Jews like herself. “The Jewish community has been by and large marginalizing these groups and put them on the back burner if they have even been on the stove at all,” she says.

Her job is to put these groups front and center. Baskin sums up the philosophy with which she is approaching her admittedly “enormous portfolio”: “It is the belief that we will be a stronger Jewish community when we welcome and incorporate the diversity that is the reality and future of Jewish life.” Since unaffiliated Generation X and millennials are another important target for her outreach work, her young age is an advantage, rather than an obstacle.

…It is language, however, that Baskin’s family hasn’t really been able to avoid. She was raised in a Jewish home by her Ashkenazi mother and African-American father. Early on, they regularly received questions about “what” she was, and thus sought out the expertise of a psychology professor, who recommended they tell Baskin she was “multiracial and Jewish.” The couple raised April and her brother in Sacramento, California “enmeshed in Jewish life” complete with a close-knit Reform congregation and Reform Jewish summer camp…

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