Following in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I witnessed Jewish organisations (mostly in America, but also in the UK) taking a public stance on anti-black racism almost immediately and standing in solidarity with their fellow black communities. In doing so, what became especially apparent is that there is an overlap in these communities: Black Jews and Jews of Color, facing both anti-black racism and antisemitism. A vivid example of intersectionality in action.
Initiatives like Not Free to Desist took it one step further, with a follow up plan for Jewish organisations in the wake of their solidarity statements by asking them to commit to a roadmap towards including Jews of Color in their organisations in various levels.
So how do Jewish communities deal with racism from within?
Yesterday, an impressive report came out on racial inclusivity in the British Jewish community, delivered by the Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community, led by Black/Jewish journalist and writer Stephen Bush. A laudable and necessary step in acknowledging the diversity of the Jewish community itself, and its relation to the anti-black racism movement. Among its 119 recommendations for more inclusive Jewish communal life, several stand out, like desisting from using racial profiling in security efforts, ensuring representation of Black Jews and Jews of Color in Jewish media and addressing ashkenormativity.
The public response from the Jewish community in the Netherlands, however, can be summed up by less than a handful of facebook posts, and the position of Jews of Color was not mentioned once in these expressions. Jewish organisations kept to the background. We, through our nascent Jewish community network Oy Vey, launched the solidarity statement ‘why we listen’, that attracted slightly over 200 signatures. A modest start, and it underscores that a communal conversation about what this means is near to non-existent. But there are Jews of Color in the Netherlands and they experience everyday and systemic racism, just like the rest of the black community. We need to realize though, that they experience this also from within the Jewish community. For some, if not most, it is a real barrier to become part of Jewish life.
Working on the intersection of antisemitism and racism from a Jewish perspective, I believe that the conversation on racial inclusivity is one of the important internal conversations Dutch Jewish communities need to have. It is a precondition for us to create inclusive and safe communities and engage in anti-racism and discrimination efforts fully: both inside our communities and towards the Dutch society at large. As the UK report teaches us “we realised that alongside calling for change in wider society, we needed to first act to understand what was happening in our own community and seek to improve things here as well.” So why not establish the Dutch Commission equivalent to the British example. We can make a head start: out of the 119 recommendations, there must be quite some immediately applicable to us!
Read the report of the Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community here.
Find out more about Not Free to Desist here.
Read Oy Vey’s solidarity statement Why We Listen here.