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Synagogues Need to Welcome and Celebrate Jewish Diversity

Thoughts on the importance of the updated list of ‘Welcoming & Diverse Synagogues’ curated by Shirley Gindler-Price, the former president of the Jewish Multiracial Network

March 31, 2016

This week, Shirley Gindler-Price, the former president of the Jewish Multiracial Network, released an updated compilation of temples and synagogues across the denominational spectrum considered to be welcoming of Jews of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and have diverse membership in their pews. Gindler-Price, who is also founder of the Black German Cultural Society, first published the “Welcoming & Diverse Synagogues” list while with JMN, and she has continued to do so because, as the post says, “every Jew needs to feel connected and every Jew needs to feel at home.” And amen to that.

The Welcoming & Diverse Synagogues list continues to be of the utmost importance by virtue of the fact that there is very real need for prayer spaces for Jews of Color who want to be Jewishly and religiously active and present, but don’t want the outright prejudices or inadvertent microaggressions that may come along with it (Judaism, as I write about constantly, is unfortunately no stranger to racial insensitivities.)

Thankfully, I’ve prayed at several of the synagogues on the list (e.g. Anshe Chesed in Linden, New Jersey, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx, Mount Sinai Jewish Center in Washington Heights), but there remains a need for more temples to be actively welcoming of Jewish diversity. As fraught with peril as merely the act of walking into a synagogue can be for racially and ethnically diverse Jews (a slice of which the Ashkenazi/White Jewish Privilege Checklist can illustrate), the conscious choice and effort to embrace Jewish diversity is integral to keeping many of us Jewishly engaged; it is essential for all of us if we hope to nurture a whole and flourishing Judaism. After all, failing to reach out to the Jewish multiplicity in our own backyard is what allows offensive incidents like those that transpired over Purim to continuously occur. Sure, there shouldn’t need to be a list, but there is. So if you find your synagogue or temple isn’t on it, you may want to examine why. Work to make it happen.

The list includes something here for every brand of Judaism, from Humanistic congregations, to Renewal, and Unaffiliated ones. Entries are based on referrals from Jewish multiracial families and Jews of color who have personally attended and felt comfortable in, and are now recommending to others. Additionally, the staff, the clergy, and the congregation of the synagogue may be evaluated anonymously before being added to the list.

If there is a synagogue or temple you recommend and would like to see listed, send an email to [email protected] for consideration.

This article is part of a collaboration between Tablet and Multikosheral, a website “here to change the monochromatic monolithic perception of Judaism.”

MaNishtana is the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish writer, speaker, rabbi, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn. His latest book is Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi.

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