Tag Archives: Civil Rights
Tony Westbrook

Balancing Minority Identities

By Tony J. Westbrook, Jr.

“So, you’re Jewish? Like full on Jewish? Like Drake.—Jewish? Funny, you don’t look Jewish.”

These are the types of comments I often hear when interacting with new people. I am often surprised by the number of people that feel compelled to ask me if I am Jewish, as if it isn’t obvious from my kippah and tzitzit. I find it interesting that no one has ever said, “It’s funny, you don’t look Black.” The fact of the matter is I am both Black and Jewish (or Jewish and Black). I am a minority within a minority. When people meet me, the most common comment I hear is that I am nothing like they imagined, which leaves me wondering, what exactly do people see when they see me?  Do they see an individual, separate from the images that pervade the media? Do they see an individual who does not fit their narrow view of what it is to be a Jew, or what it is to be a person of color? Am I being thrown into the all Jewish box? The all Black box? Read more…


Selma, 50 Years Later: What Can You Do to Mark this Occasion?

Next weekend marks the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

On March 7, 1965, civil rights leaders led 600 peaceful marchers from Selma towards Montgomery, AL in pursuit of voting rights, but were stopped after just six blocks. The marchers were brutally attacked by police as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Images of the confrontation were televised across the country and the world, horrifying citizens and rousing much-needed, broad public support for voting rights. The day became known as “Bloody Sunday” and helped lead to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act later that year. Read more…

A number of Oscars all in a row

Social Justice at the Oscars

In case you missed it, last night at the Academy Awards, many of the winners discussed important issues of social justice in their acceptance speeches. The stage of the Dolby Theater is a unique platform to call attention to these critical issues, and it can be validating to see celebrities discuss topics that we have long been working on in our mandate to repair the world. Read more…

L'Taken Students Voting Rights picture

L’Taken Teens Inspire Us to Fight for Voting Rights for All

Last month, four L’Taken participants from Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey spoke to their Members of Congress about their passion for voting rights. Brett Eisenberg, Victoria Kalbacher, Daniel Susson and Julie Benbassat spoke eloquently about our democracy and our duty as citizens to protect it. As we wait for the re-introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act, we must remember that there is still so much to be done to ensure free and fair elections. Read more…

Why Civil Rights Are Everyone’s Problem — And What You Can Do

By Gabriel Sands

This piece originally appeared at Refinery29.

Last week, just a few days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was hit with a stark reminder of how present race and racial discrimination are — as much as many would like to pretend those days are over. A coworker and I had picked up lunch and stopped by her bank on our way back to the office. She headed back to the ATMs, and I stood in the lobby waiting for her with a brown paper bag in my hand. Then, an employee approached me and said curtly, “Deliveries need to go through the back door.”

I was confused at first, and then I realized what was happening. This person had assumed I was a delivery guy because I look Middle Eastern. I’m not — I’m white and Jewish — but I’d just been racially profiled. It was almost funny, but more importantly, it was a taste of what anyone with dark skin goes through on a daily basis. It reinforced for me that racism and the fight for racial equality is everyone’s problem. Read more…

Rachel Laser speaking at National Sikh Campaign press conference

Rachel Laser: We Must Fight Discrimination Against Sikhs

On Monday, RAC Deputy Director Rachel Laser spoke at a press conference announcing the National Sikh Campaign’s (NSC) report on “What Americans Know and What Americans Need to Know.” NSC was created to fight the stereotypes and discrimination that Sikh Americans face in society today by “[highlighting] the Sikh community’s contributions to American society; [creating] an environment in which Sikhs don’t have to hide their articles of faith and who they are as people; [fostering] a Sikh community that is organized and can begin using existing infrastructure to better integrate into American society; and [laying] the foundation for more Sikhs to become leaders in the United States.” Read more…

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marches with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama

The Movie Selma: Where is Heschel?

By Al Vorspan

The movie Selma moved me very deeply, and I was impressed with the superb acting (especially MLK) and brilliant writing. But I was also troubled that this movie (so clearly on the side of the angels) unwittingly continues a trend I have watched for decades with mounting discomfort—the gradual bleaching out of the Jewish role in the civil rights revolution in America. To put it bluntly, as a friend, Larry Bush, put it to me: where was Heschel?

The murdered Christian clergyman was respectfully recalled. What appeared to be a Greek orthodox prelate, in garb, was glimpsed in the front row. But Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, certainly one of America’s most renowned and prophetic religious leaders, was not mentioned, nor viewed, though in real life Heschel was sitting in the front row with King’s carefully selected partners in the struggle for equal justice. Read more…

Group of NFTY Southern Teens volunteering

Inspired and Empowered: Jewish Social Justice, MLK Legacy and NFTY Southern

By Alexa Broida

I had the pleasure of spending MLK weekend with NFTY Southern in Memphis at their “Kallah Clave” social justice weekend. Back in the fall, the NFTY Southern Regional Advisor, Becci Jacobs, reached out to Mitzvah Corps as a partner in the visioning of the event and we began brainstorming together. Being able to have been not only a guest, but a part of planning the event, gave me additional insight into the depth of dedication of the planning process. Over the last few days, as I’ve begun to really process the significance of the event and to find the words to even begin to do justice to the incredibly powerful experience that the team there put together, I’ve continued to feel inspired and empowered. Read more…