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  • Congregation Beit Simchat Torah is a Jewish synagogue where the conference took place. It also describes itself as the world's largest LGBT synagogue.

    Congregation Beit Simchat Torah is a Jewish synagogue where the conference took place. It also describes itself as the world's largest LGBT synagogue. | Photo: Wiki Commons

Published 5 May 2016

Non-white Jews gathered this past week in New York to discuss and connect over issues many had thought they faced alone.

It was a gathering the first of its kind. The Jews of Color National Convening, which took place from May 1-3 in Manhattan saw racialized Jews from all over the U.S. meet in one place to discuss a number of things.

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Put on by the Jewish Multiracial Network and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, the three day conference included more than 100 African Americans, Latinos and Asians Jews, alongside Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews.

One attendee and writer for Forward, Sigal Samuel, shared her experience of how instrumental it was to connect with other people who also understood what it meant to feel like an outsider, to have overlapping identities, and to hold far-left politics. The event also saw workshops on the racism Jews of colour face in Jewish spaces, as well as their role in the Black Lives Matter movement (which was founded by a Jew of colour).

Another participant expressed how happy she was to be in a space where she doesn’t have to “prove” her Judaism.

“It’s such a relief to be in a space where I don’t have to explain and justify myself. I can breathe here,” said Kalycia Trishana Watson, who is originally from Jamaica.

Although the event was a homecoming space for many, event organizers did not shy away from tough topics. Among those included discussions on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and it became evident pretty soon not everyone had the same views on Israel and Palestine.

Outside the U.S. the majority of the world’s Jews are at least part Mizrahi or Sephardic, the darker-skinned descendants of Jews who fled to the Muslim world after the Spanish Inquisition. What’s new about today’s era of multiracial Jews, however? They are loudly embracing their Judaism.

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