Despite the stereotype in the US that all Jews are white, the truth is that, since ancient times, Jews have been a diverse, multiracial, multi-ethnic people. Over the past thirty-plus years, Jewish People of Color (JOC’s) in the US and beyond have called for greater attention to racial and ethnic diversity in Jewish community life, to increase inclusion for Jews from all backgrounds as well as to disrupt this stereotype.
More recently, as JOC’s have become more visible in leadership roles–both within and outside of Jewish communities–new understandings have begun to emerge on the roles that JOC leadership can play in working against racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of division, barriers, xenophobia, and hate. New insights have also begun to emerge around what supports and resources are needed to develop, sustain, and grow Jewish diversity and inclusion work in a way that centers JOC leadership.
As such, the work on Jewish diversity and inclusion is rapidly transforming–from basic ideas about including Jews of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in Jewish life to more complex strategies for resourcing the leadership of JOC’s to engage Jews and Jewish organizations in both a) deeper internal Jewish community inclusion efforts, as well as in b) more effective outward-facing, intergroup, intersectional justice work.
Edot HaMidwest: The Midwest Regional Jewish Diversity Collaborative (“Edot”) is a new project focused on affirming Jewish racial and ethnic diversity across communities in the Midwest region. Supporting and investing in JOC leadership in target communities is key to our theory of action. Edot works with the UW-Madison Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (the “CommNS”) and its Co-Create initiative to conduct program evaluation and connect to UW-Madison expertise on community efforts.
Using a scaffolding approach to grow the work, Edot’s launch phase will focus on three goals that aim to harness the momentum of Jewish diversity work on the coasts, in service of Midwest communities. The goals for this phase are: network building and mapping; mobilizing partners; and holding a convening. A coordinator and a cohort of community outreach specialists in three focus cities will leverage local relationships to meet these goals. Year 1 will also see the development of an advisory board for the group.
Future developments may include adding additional communities and college campuses, technical assistance for organizations, teacher training, leadership cohorts, youth programming, an oral history project, and the seeding of innovative, Midwest JOC-led initiatives.