Want to fight antisemitism? Uplift diversity!

 

Jews are diverse in thought, practice, orientation, origin, and appearance. The diversity that exists within society-at-large is mirrored within the Jewish community.  It may seem obvious to point this out, but for many people, both inside and outside the Jewish community this fact is not often considered.  There are Jews who are Black, LGTBQ+, Latino, and the list goes on.

The Jewish community marching in the Festival of Faith’s annual parade.

In recent years, through programming and intentional relationship building, the JCRC has been amplifying the diversity within our Jewish community. For example, the theme of this year’s 7th Annual Festival of Faiths (organized by the Center for Interfaith Cooperation) was “diversity within faith traditions.”  The JCRC-led community-wide committee decided the Jewish community should uplift the broad spectrum of Jewish identity and culture by compiling a cookbook of different Jewish cuisines from around the world and displaying the personal narratives of local Jews of Color.

And people are still talking about a program JCRC designed for the 2018 Spirit & Place Festival called “Jewish and…,” which empowered several members of our local Jewish community to publicly share personal stories that highlighted their intersectional identities. Common refrains from people who attended that night included: “Thank you for showing how there really isn’t just one type of Jew” and “I never realized that all Jews aren’t white”. These powerful take-aways are critical to our fighting antisemitism today, as we start to see some progressive social justice groups impose a litmus test for Jews.

Antisemitism takes many forms, and while many Jews may experience it in similar ways, it can be a doubly painful experience for Jews with intersecting identities. Take, for example, what happened at the 2017 Dyke March in Chicago when a Jewish lesbian was banned from marching with a rainbow flag with a Star of David (not an Israeli flag); the reason given: “Zionism is a trigger for some marchers”.  While the vast majority of Jews would agree this was a blatant expression (and act) of antisemitism, the breath of the Jewish community didn’t fully appreciate that the Jewish lesbian not only experienced the shock and fear of being targeted for being Jewish, but was also painfully ostracized by her LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, this double attack is an experience common for Jews with intersecting identities.

The JCRC works to create spaces for thoughtful, courageous conversations about issues important to Jews, both inside – and outside – the Jewish community.  Our Community Engagement & Intergroup Affairs Committee supports members of our Jewish community as they seek to articulate the nuances of their Jewish identity in spaces in the general community where they want to effectively, and confidently, add their Jewish voice.  Importantly, as they do so, they’re reminding those communities to recognize and honor the Jews within their spaces.

Combatting antisemitism requires a multi-faceted approach.  One way for us to effectively confront antisemitism out in the community-at-large, is to make spaces within our community to listen to Jews with intersectional identities and support them sharing their life experiences.

Over the next several issues of the Federation magazine, JCRC staff and lay leaders will share their thoughts about an aspect of our Community Relations work. In this issue, Aaron Welcher, JCRC Program & Communications Coordinator, describes the impetus behind JCRC raising awareness of the diversity within the Jewish community. This piece was originally published in the November 2019 Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis’s magazine.