Jews of Color Initiative CEO Ilana Kaufman To Highlight Groundbreaking Research, Data


When the Jews of Color Initiative was first founded seven years ago, Ilana Kaufman wrote for The Jerusalem Post on March 4, her community was still wondering if Jews of Color “were a real population or just ‘unicorns.’ ”

Now, the question for the organization is how to ensure continued funded-research opportunities centering that very population and its intersectionality.

“In the last five years, amid the racial reckoning in the U.S., the pandemic, economic challenges, and the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, the Jews of Color Initiative has made steady progress toward our vision of a Jewish community that reflects racial equity and diversity and centers the leadership of Jews of Color,” Kaufman wrote. “… We are increasingly aware that supporting serious research is strategically vital for advancement and growth in our field.”

Kaufman will discuss the findings of JoCI’s research, and research to come, when she speaks at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, opening Week One’s Interfaith Lecture Series and the theme of “Race and American Religious Experience.” 

In 2021, JoCI released the findings of the study “Beyond the Count: Perspectives and Lived Experience of Jews of Color.” It documented how Jews of Color (JoC) viewed Jewish identity and how they’ve experienced racism in Jewish spaces. The results, Kaufman wrote “were profoundly painful.” Eighty percent of study participants reported facing discrimination in Jewish settings, and almost 50% altered how they speak, dress, or present themselves to conform to predominantly white Jewish spaces.

Feedback to the report indicated its significant impact: Data and insights like those provided in the study were lacking. JoCI, Kaufman wrote, had an opportunity and responsibility to not just elevate JoC voices in academic research, but to push that research even further. 

Requests for proposals followed, and JoCI was able to award research grants to projects exploring Black Jewish women’s birth outcomes; education in Latinx-Jewish families; experiences of Asian adoptees; and perspectives of aging JoC. The studies reflected “complex issues our community must grapple with,” Kaufman wrote. 

“… (The findings are) just a taste of the new knowledge that now powerfully informs our understanding of ritual, women’s health, identity, and education of youth and families.”

She hopes further studies delve into differences among JoC and how lived experience changes based on intersectional identities. Understanding the nuance therein, she wrote, will help guide conversations for the work of fighting racism.

“All of us in the American Jewish community continue to adjust to life post-Oct. 7, 2023,” Kaufman wrote. “Antisemitism is now in every bit of the air we breathe. And raw trauma is now part of everyday life. The Jews of Color Initiative knows that especially in the most difficult of times, it’s very important to focus on efforts that are inclusive, supportive, and promote our ability to thrive.” 

Celebrating research and data of Jewish experiences, she wrote, “honors the most intimate pathways and connections” to Jewish legacy. 

“This research and data not only expands what we know about Jews of Color but fortifies the Jewish community, strengthens Jewish identity, and reinforces our Jewish future,” Kaufman wrote.

Tags : Beyond the Count: Perspectives and Lived Experience of Jews of Color.Ilana Kaufmaninterfaith lecture seriesJews of ColorJoCIThe Jerusalem PostWeek One’s Interfaith Lecture Series

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