Jews are a multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural people who continue to build an evolving Jewish civilization together that includes a religion and a nation. How can we embrace the full diversity of today’s Jewish community? One way is to listen to and internalize the stories of Jews of Color, in their own words.
In these deeply personal, one-on-one interviews from season one of our podcast, Wholly Jewish, Black, biracial, and multiracial Jews share their experiences, insights, and how they enrich and create a more vibrant Jewish community. As part of our ongoing and evolving commitment to the principles of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion, the Union for Reform Judaism, in partnership with April Baskin (in her formal role as former vice president of Audacious Hospitality), produced this podcast to explore the beauty of Jewish diversity and listen to the stories of Jews from myriad identities.
For more opportunities to listen to and learn from Black Jewish voices, see these resources for observing Black History Month; to take action for racial justice, visit the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s racial justice resource page.
- Bryant: From Tennessee to Iraq and Back: Meet Bryant Heinzelman, a congregational leader, U.S. Army veteran, and former intelligence analyst: “I promised myself if I made it back alive, I would get serious about Judaism,” he says. He shares stories from his Jewish journey and how it has shaped and strengthened his identity.
- Chris: The Blessing of Telling My Stories: ReformJudaism.org’s own Chris Harrison, a skilled writer and editor, talks about life as a Black Jew-by-Choice, a networker extraordinaire, and lover of all things Marvel and marvelous. “I always knew I had a calling to communicate, to write, and to be my own authentic self.”
- Destiny: Jews Like Us are Out Here: Meet Destiny Karash Givens, a Jewish teacher and scientist who’s proving she can do just about anything – including raising the profile and visibility of Jews of Color. “People automatically have this assumption of the ‘why’ about my Judaism,” she says.
- Erika: Check Your Assumptions at the Door: Erica Riddick is a lifelong dancer, an avid learner, and a keen observer who talks about consistent curiosity, intent versus impact, how to have honest conversations, and more. “I like thinking about identity, like who I am and where I’m going in the world,” she says.
- Everlyn: Bring Your Whole Self to Everything: Everlyn Hunter, an honest, insightful West Coast psychologist, embraces her multi-faceted identity – Jewish, Black, multi-ethnic, a lesbian, and more. “All of who I am exists at all times and in every context.”
- Gina: The Path I’ve Chosen: Gina Drangel is a trained opera singer and devoted mother who recently became a bat mitzvah. “Feeling so whole with my Jewishness and my Blackness, it completes me,” she says of her beautiful, ongoing journey.
- Jordan: Black, Jewish, and Bettering the World: Meet Jordan Berg Powers, a social justice leader, family man, and all-around mensch striving to create a world of awareness and kindness. His number-one rule? Leave the world better than you found it. “I come from a long line of activists making change for the better,” he says.
- Kelly: I Have a Right to Be Here: Fierce, proud, and powerful, Kelly Whitehead navigates the world as queer, Black, Jewish woman – oh, yeah, and a lifelong lover of Jewish summer camp! “I think a lot about who I am because I'm often in exclusively white spaces or mostly exclusively Jewish spaces,” she says.
- Robin: Driven by Curiosity and Joy: Robin Harrison contains multitudes: This Black, Jewish, Disney-loving father, husband, and son tells us about his childhood in Compton, his family’s Jewish studies, and the sense of wonder he cultivates in adulthood. “I want to make a difference for someone,” he says.
- Tani: We Need Inclusive Jewish Spaces: Tani Prell Epstein, an artist and Jewish educator, talks about what drew her to Judaism and how we can all embrace and move toward a fully inclusive Jewish world. “Judaism is the way that I think and love and learn,” she says.
- Yolanda: Forging Connections Through Conversations: Yolanda Savage-Narva is a mother, an activist, an educator, and so much more: “Jewish identity, for me, is multifaceted,” she said. She teaches us to be kind but strong, patient but firm, and always fair, just, and humble.
Find more Jewish resources for observing Black History Month, and for resources that encompass the broader diversity of Jewish life, visit our Racial Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion page. Additional episodes of Wholly Jewish feature the stories of Jews of Asian and Latinx descent, as well as interviews with LGBTQ+ Jews.