Our big tent just keeps getting bigger.
Be’chol Lashon, a San Francisco-based organization devoted to promoting inclusion for racially and ethnically diverse members of the Jewish community, held its first summer camp in June (which grew out of years of annual retreats). At the same time, said Sue Fishkoff in the JTA, founders of the Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN), with goals are similar to Be’chol Lashon, “passed leadership on to the next generation and is now run by and for Jews of color.”
The rapid expansion and changes in leadership of these organizations shows us that more opportunities are needed for these folks to come together and explore their Jewish identity. “This is a population that is growing, that deserves our sensitivity, and is not getting it,” said JOI’s Paul Golin in the article. He spoke not only as a representative of JOI, but as someone with a Japanese wife who “expects their future children to face the same questions” that his wife experienced in Jewish settings.
Creating these opportunities is not about segregation, said many parents who attended Be’chol Lashon’s recent fall retreat. It’s about empowerment. “They look at the Be’chol Lashon activities as supplementary, giving them space to explore connections to Judaism without having to explain who they are,” wrote the JTA.
One of the principles of our Big Tent Judaism Coalition is to celebrate the diversity of today’s Jewish individuals and households and leave behind assumptions about what Jews “look like” or how families are configured. We applaud both Be’chol Lashon and the JMN for advancing these notions and bringing much needed attention to this population and the challenges they face.
At the end of the article, one participant said that in California, they are lucky to already be tolerant. “But tolerance is just the first step to acceptance, and that’s what we need more of in the Jewish community.” We agree, and believe his insight should be applied to not just those of mixed heritage, but intermarried/interpartnered families, children of intermarriage, and all those who feel they are on the periphery of the Jewish community.
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