Reflections on Education, Allyship, and Activism
Hi! I am Sasha Joseph, the Senior Regional Director for Central Region West. I am alum of North Texas Oklahoma Region and I am so excited to be working for BBYO, a space that shaped my Jewish Identity. I moved to the United States when I was 14, from India, and immediately felt welcome in my home chapter of Nona Bloch Salomon BBG #243. I am so thankful my identity was nurtured by the adults around me. My advisors created a space for me to learn, practice, and just be Jewish.
As I am writing to you, I am reminded of a quote used in Pirkei Avot (the Ethics of our Fathers), "It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either." As advisors you embody this! You work many hours on your weekends to shepherd our teens from becoming good to great. I am also thinking about all the additional work you are all doing as we move through this stage of awakening in the world. BBYO has made space for learning and reflecting on being actively anti-racist and it is important for all of us to commit to an arc of change, not just for the summer but for the years to come.
Where do we start? I want to make it clear, this is NOT easy and there isn’t one way to begin your journey to activism. We are at different levels in our activism but it is up to us to start somewhere. We can start by making the people in our communities feel welcome! This article speaks about how allies can help Jews of Color combat that stranger status for Jews of Color in their community. As you keep empowering your teens, think about your and your community’s blind spots. Are you consulting other Jews of Color in your community when you host programming? Are you bringing in representative voices to your events, not just the social justice ones? Is your chapter leadership diverse? Create some time for self-education. In order to become an ally, we must first understand how to dismantle the very systems that some of us might be benefitting from. Think about your programming, and have conversations about how the language used, prayers we learn, trauma that we want to combat can be Ashkenormative. As our Facebook feeds return back to “normal” keep making racial inclusion a priority by making sure 1) it’s more than being performative 2) it doesn’t leave it to marginalized people to do the work 3) it’s quantified 4) leadership is invested 5) it goes beyond recruitment (list written by Sophie Williams).
Please also help us spread the word – on Wednesdays at 8pm ET, BBYO advisor Jess Attas hosts weekly Members of Color hangouts, where Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Mizrahi, and Sephardi teens can gather for learning, laughter, and exploring their identities. Teens can see the full schedule and register here.
I am excited to keep learning with you all and keep calling you into the tent of learning. I leave you with this piece, written by an incredible Jewish woman of Color, about her experience as a Jamaican Jew in America.