Programs and Community Building for Multiracial / Multicultural Jews & Jewish Families
Mitsui Collective is open to all spiritual seekers while centering our work and community-building around those historically placed at the margins of Jewish life — including but not limited to Jews of Color and non-Ashkenormative Jews, LGBTQ, interfaith / intergroup families, and those of varied socioeconomic status. We view diversity and representation as a vital building block for vibrant, resilient community.
Locally (Cleveland) and regionally (Midwest) we are proud to work in partnership with Edot HaMidwest: The Jewish Midwest Regional Diversity Collaborative to focus a core subset of our work specifically on Jews of Color and Multiracial Jewish families. Mitsui Collective also works on a national level for both JOC-related consultation and JOC-centered movement & wellness programs. To see more please visit our programs page.
Programs specifically focused on these populations are generally listed on the events page with a note on target audience. Some programs are exclusively for JOC (or people of color involved in Jewish community). Others are more broadly for multiracial families and purposefully include white / non-POC family members. If you’re unsure about whether you fit into these more specifically defined groups, please be in touch! We’d love to chat about it.
And in general if you’d like to be involved and/or get connected with other JOC and Multiracial Jewish families in Cleveland and throughout the Midwest, please also be in touch so we can be sure to reach out.
Jews of Color (JOC)
Coining of the term Jew of Color (JOC) is generally attributed to Yavilah McCoy, a prominent Jewish scholar, teacher, and diversity consultant who serves as a leader and mentor for many many folks in the JOC community and beyond (including for Mitsui Collective!). That said, there are many ways to define JOC. Here are a few:
- In the study Counting Inconsistencies: An Analysis of American Jewish Population Studies, with a Focus on Jews of Color, The Jews of Color Initiative defines JOC “broadly to include anyone who identified as non-white” and Jewish.
- Ammud: The JOC Torah Academy defines JOC as “people who are considered non-white in the U.S. by nature of their generational lineage and identify as such (including Mizrahi and Sephardi people).”
- The Religious Action Center (RAC) of Reform Judaism defines JOC as “a pan-ethnic term that is used to identify Jews whose family origins are originally in African, Asian or Latin-American countries. Jews of Color may identify as Black, Latino/a, Asian-American or of mixed heritage such as biracial or multi-racial. Due to several factors, Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews from North African and Arab lands vary in whether or not they self-identify as “Jews of Color.””
Please note that important distinctions can and should be made between race and ethnicity when discussing Jewish heritage; and that JOC may come from any combination of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and/or Mizrachi backgrounds or from none of these particular ethno-cultural traditions.
Mitsui Collective welcomes all those who identify as JOC to attend / get involved with JOC-specific programs and initiatives. If you’re unclear about whether and how to identify, we welcome you to get in touch so that we can chat about what it means to be in JOC space. We know the work of race and identity is messy and complex!
Multiracial & Multicultural Jewish Families
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the definition of “Jewish family” is increasingly varied and diverse. Many Jewish families include family members who may not personally identify as Jewish and come from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, who are nonetheless part of a family who associates with Jewish identities, traditions, and practices. Mitsui Collective welcomes and embraces all such families as a valued and critical part of our community and seeks to create contemporary Jewish practices that provide meaning and value to spiritual seekers of all backgrounds.
Ashkenormativity is the phenomenon wherein Ashkenazi (ie originating in Central and Eastern European) Jewish traditions and cultural markers are assumed to be the default standard for Jewish identity and experience. Examples include Ashkenazi Jewish foods like bagels and lox or potato latkes being go-to foods for any and all Jewish events; Yiddish culture assumed as a stand-in for all Jewish backgrounds; or more complicatedly the assumption that all American Jews have been to Jewish summer camp — an experience both predominantly Ashkenazi (though certainly not exclusively) that also intersects with class privilege.
Ashkenormativity becomes problematic due to its disproportionate prevalence in assumptions and practices both internal and externally associated with the Jewish experience both in North America and elsewhere. Ashkenormativity often intersects with predominately white (or “white-passing”) Jewish spaces but should not be used as a place-holder for whiteness. Many JOC have Ashkenazi heritage; and many Sephardi & Mizrachi Jews consider themselves white or white-passing.
*Definitions listed here are for working purposes, are in process, and are fluid. If you’d like to learn and discuss more we hope you’ll be involved with our programs and welcome you to be in touch.
Whether as JOC or as an ally, if you’re looking for resources to deepen your learning and toolkit around racial equity in the Jewish community and beyond, here are a few links to get you started.