The Joyous Justice Podcast

Ep. 125: Racial Justice IS a Jewish Issue (44 reprise)

February 02, 2023 April Baskin Episode 125
The Joyous Justice Podcast
Ep. 125: Racial Justice IS a Jewish Issue (44 reprise)
Show Notes Transcript

The past week or so have brought an unwelcome reminder that anti-Black racism is alive and well in 21st-century America. With this as backdrop, we’re reprising episode 44. In this conversation, we respond to a common question about racial justice work and explain that because the Jewish community is a global, multi-racial people, racial justice already is and must continue to be a core Jewish value and issue.

Read Josefin Dolsten’s op-ed in The Forward, entitled “As Jews, we need to speak out against DeSantis’ efforts to erase Black history:”

Visit to learn more about Joyous Justice, LLC, our team, and  get connected & involved in our community!

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Read more about Rabbi Leora Kaye and her work:

Check out what we mean by Jews of the Global Majority here:

Listen to April on the BBC’s Heart and Soul on Black Jewish Lives Matter to hear more about her thoughts on our global multi-racial Jewish community:

Review the Jews of Color Field Building’s research on population demographics:

Check out this article about the importance of cultural competence for teams:

Check out our discussion/reflection questions for this episode:

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For the past week or so have brought an unwelcome reminder that anti black racism is alive and well in 21st century America. With the new details surrounding Tyree, Nichols his death in Memphis and the absurd rulings about black history in Florida classrooms, the assault on black and brown bodies, minds, experiences and truth is real, a joyous justice, we believe addressing this assault is a Jewish issue. Thankfully, we are not alone, as evidenced by the current piece in the foreword entitled as Jews, we need to speak out against DeSantis his efforts to erase black history. At the same time, we are very aware that there are Jews and non Jews who disagree with us on this point. And so with all of this as backdrop we present in refreeze episode 44 racial justice is a Jewish issue you're listening to the Joyce justice podcast, a weekly show hosted by April Baskin with Tracy Decker, in a complex world in which systemic oppression conditions us to deny others and our own humanity. let's dedicate ourselves to the pursuit and embodiment of wholeness, love and thriving in the world. And in our own lives. It's time to heal and flourish our way to a more joyously just future. Someone with whom we work, Tracy recently posed a question that you had the great idea it would be good for us to discuss. And the question is, we have some key members in our community, it might be board members, it might be key leaders on our staff team. Just other VIPs and key stakeholders in our orbits who are having a hard time they understand that racial justice is important in the world. secularly. But they're not really seeing how it's relevant in the context of the Jewish community, or how or if it's a Jewish issue. Right. And so yeah, right. And so I thought, I didn't think you thought, and I agree that it would be great for us to do a podcast for some of those folks, for us to articulate some of our thoughts about this, about why racial justice is a Jewish issue. Why it's important for Jewish organizations to commit to racial justice through a Jewish lens and why that is profoundly and clearly Jewish. Yeah, yeah. It just, I suggested it because it feels like, it just feels like it comes up a lot. And I personally have answered the question many times. And I, I was sort of felt like we we'd answered it, like we the collective we, not you and me, but we those of us in the Jewish community who care about regional justice, but it keeps coming up. So let's answer it again. This question needs to be answered for organizations and for individuals. Like, yeah, it's not just, it's not just leaders of organizations that need to get clear about this. You know, I had a recent experience where there was an argument in my Jewish community about whether and how long we should keep our Black Lives Matter sign up. And, you know, there are those individual Jews who are just using the pews who are like, Why is this a Jewish issue? And, you know, to me, it seems pretty clear. I feel like the question has been answered, but obviously, it hasn't been answered for enough folks. Because it keeps keeps coming up. The question keeps getting asked, in slightly different ways, with slightly different balances. You know, in our work together, we had someone say, Well, how do I convince my board that this is a Jewish issue? And, you know, in my sort of private life, it was like, I was I was trying to convince fellow congregants, that it was a Jewish issue. So it happens in lots of different spheres with different specifics around it. But it is a question that, unfortunately, in my view, in my view, it is unfortunate that we have to keep having it, we'll keep answering it, but also, that's why we have this podcast so that we can we have a platform on which to answer so that those who are genuinely asking can get an answer and those who need to give the answer can have our ideas articulated. But I think one thing that's coming up, it's quietly coming up in my mind that spiritually I'm wanting to share that I feel like my spirit is kind of nudging me to share is I'm interested in folks asking, answering, why isn't it a Jewish issue? Like, there's so many reasons for why it's a Jewish issue? I don't understand why it's not. Right, right. Because the answer is that in the person who's asking the mind, right, because then the person who's asking the question, in their mind, Jews are white. That's the only to me. That's the only sense. Right? Right. Right. And we know so so to get into some of the reasons why it is a Jewish issue, I you know, is for a number of reasons. And in the spirit of something rabbi, Rabbi Laura Kay once said to me, I will honor her words and not start with, I'll start in a particular order and say that racial justice issue, racial justice is a Jewish issue. Because as Jews, we believe in the value of but Selam Elohim, that we were all made in the image of the Divine. And racism is inherently dehumanizing, and treats people as subhuman in a systemic, interpersonal, ideological, like at every level of that of the scale, most notably systemically and ideologically treats people of color, as less than right. So that inherently is in violation of this value, that we are all created by the image of the Divine. Treat your neighbor as yourself. Many people of color are not being treated as Jews, as many Jews are being treated in this country in terms of having access to a variety of governmental supports access to home loans, access to bank loans, access to equitable health care, that is not something that most people of color have access to. Not to mention, that we ourselves are a multiracial people. But I love that, as Robin Lee RK once said to me, and I was like, I totally agree with you. That shouldn't be the primary reason why, even if in fact, which we aren't we we're all not people of color, which is very much not the case, it would still be an important issue for Jews to be thoughtful about. Here's another reason, if we as Jews are in any society, right, because I still can see some people thinking like, well, but then isn't everything an issue? Well, in some ways, potentially. But yeah, if we are party to oppression, which as citizens of a society, with a variety of systems that are built historically, and in the current time, depend on the exploitation of people. As Jews, in the spirit of many Jewish values and a number of Jewish laws, we should work to ensure that our living and our lives, live in move us and our society in the direction of justice and are not complicit in the harming in this systemic harming of people. Based upon their identity, and or appearance. Not to mention there are as I started to say lots of people of color who are Jews, we are a global people. We started in North Africa and West Asia and have lived and do live all over the globe, as is often cited, at times in lackluster ways, but it still is true. In Israel, Palestine, more than 50% of folks there are not of solely European heritage. They are people of the global majority from West Asia, and East Africa. So we are an incredibly diverse people and in the United States that diversity is increasing. So this is also important for Jewish communal leaders to understand not only is this important now, but this is only going to increase in importance as Jews continue to translationally and transnationally. Adopt who can you to have interracial marriages As a number of people of color, or also I like to use the phrase people of a global majority, which is a great contradiction to the word minority, which is really not, is an outdated phrase, it's not the worst word to use. But it also often isn't the most accurate, nor mindful word to use. So better words to use are people of color or people of the global majority. Because minority also just inherently in the phrasing connotes less power and contributes to oppressive patterns that affect people of color. So because of, and also the fact that a range of different people particularly of Latin x, but not exclusively, descent, are also doing DNA tests and learning that they have Jewish heritage that they are descendants of conversos. And people who survived the Spanish Inquisition, and now are a part of multiracial, any, any range of racially identified as we know, Latin X and Latino and Latina folks can have a range of different racial identities. So that is dramatically increasing with time and our we as a people are becoming more diverse. So it is incumbent on us as a community, ethically, spiritually and pragmatically, for us to not only prioritize racial justice, but specifically, within Jewish institutions work on strengthening here's a curveball, but it's really important. And we work with this with a number of our clients, specifically, our organizational clients, working on building our intercultural competence, our ability as Jewish leaders and as Jewish institutions and organizations and communities to work effectively across lines of difference. So not only do we need to work on advancing racial justice, but also increasing our capacity to work effectively and bridge the differences that do exist, because they do exist inherently Yes, as humans, we might even say that 80% or 70%, if we want to be bold, have our shared human experience is mostly shared, but that other 20 to 30%, and arguably much higher, makes a world of difference on our lifespans on how we live and all those indices of difference around gender, race class, all those things create differences. And as a as Jewish organizations, we need to get better at bridging those, again, for all of the spiritual and ethical reasons, and also at the end of the day, because it's in your self interest. Because the data consistently shows that monocoque cultural organizations do outperform diverse organizations or groups that lack intercultural competence. But the organizations and teams that outperform everyone are diverse teams that work effectively across lines of difference. And so if our organizations want to have a chance of surviving, and we know continuity, and survival of our legacy and contemporary institutions is a concern for a number of us. It's important that developing our intercultural competence, competence, and prioritizing liberation around racial justice, as well as other forms of liberation that are very important to our people, like around LGBTQ identity and justice, are important for us, as well as disability justice are all incredibly important for us to prioritize. And it's deeply Jewish to do so. And we have to I just want to point out that you started by saying like, we shouldn't even even if we were all one racial makeup, the Jewish people, then we would still need to care. I just we're not and so I think the not all the at all, and I've been and so like, individuals institutions, you wouldn't question putting a sign up that said Jewish lives matter. The truth is, Black Lives Matter does say Jewish lives matter because there are black Jews. And, and it's as simple as that, in my in my opinion, and, and yes, the other things that you said are also true through. But if you need it to be closer to home, if you need an in group to help, you know, an in group association to help fully embrace it, it's there. And you know, when I, when I think about like how my white Jewish fellow congregants and just community members would respond if Jews if White Jews were being brutalized the way that black Americans are by agents of the state how we would respond. That's how we should respond to black folks being brutalized because that we don't that we don't know that that person is not Jewish. And sometimes they are, and they have. Exactly and so there's this sense of like, it's not a Jewish issue, because they're out group, it's factually inaccurate. Yeah, yeah. And I think actually is like not not subjectively, objectively. It is a Jewish issue, because for one racism and specifically white supremacy, anti semitism is an outgrowth of racism of white supremacy. Right, and it interlocks and interplays with racism, and Jews are impacted by racism as well, not in this white Jews, specifically what I'm saying here, right? We're all so all Jews actually are, in fact, impacted by racism. And all the more so profoundly impacted are Jews of color, or Jews of the global majority, are deeply affected by that. And demographers continue to debate this, my personal stance is a number of demographers have outdated data that researchers out of Stanford and not exclusively Stanford have stated are have some key limitations that undermine the legitimacy of that data. Right. But so we're looking at at least 11 to 20% of our community right now. And that doesn't even include young people. And there's far more Jews of color, there's a far higher percentage of Jews of color among young people are people of color. So racism hurts everyone in America, right? Including all white Jews. And obviously, it most directly harms and kills and targets for destruction people of color. So, yeah, yeah. And that, I mean, she was we were only 2%, less than 2% of the American population, and Jews are writ large. And and we're saying somewhere between 10 and 20%, of Jews are of color and so that, like, the numbers argument just doesn't work. It just doesn't like when people argue, say, I don't see, it's not real. Like even if the, the demography like if we, as Jews expect to be taken seriously and have our needs met as 2%. Then, like, we can't then turn around and say, well, there are only those black Jews, those Jews of color are only X percent like No, right. And also, as I spoke about in my thesis to last night, when I wrote my thesis, it might be different now, but the demographics were such that, that the number of Asian Americans in the United States was around 7%. And, you know, similarly, like, no one would say that Asian Americans, I would hope no one would say that it's an anomaly or that Asian Americans don't exist, don't count for Yeah, or don't matter, right, or don't count, as has been said about Jews of color inappropriately at times. Yeah, we don't count just as the 2% of Jews in America counts at our sacred and in are clearly a part of like one of the things that in my museum career at the Jewish Museum in Jewish museums, one of the things that we say is that Jewish American history is American history. It just is. It's the part of American history and in the same way that we are adamant about that, about our broader American culture. So to Jews of color, Jews are the global majority about Jewish our history and our identities being a part of Jewish history, identity and contemporary priorities and concerns. So I think, you know, I'll end with this final thought, which is that. As I've often say, one of my core talking points that I say when I speak publicly, is that this is the core shift that I want us to go through it shift from this being a matter of white Jews helping people of color to this being an us issue. Yeah, for us to really fully embrace that every single one of us whatever our our identity is, we are members of a multiracial people. We are part of a multiracial people. And if the Jewish people is a multiracial people, which it very much is in the United States, and also in many places abroad. Therefore, it's hard for me to understand why racial justice would not be a Jewish issue for a multiracial Jewish people. Thanks for tuning in. To learn more about joyous justice LLC, our team and how you can get involved with our community. Check out the info in our show notes, or find us at joyous If you enjoy this episode, show us some love. Subscribe, wherever you're listening. Tell your people share what you're learning and how your leadership is evolving. Stay humble, but not too humble. And keep going because the future is ours to co create