Jews and Racial Justice: Resources for Exploring

UPDATED June 19, 2020

Arriving from “Trouble to See” series? Start here for resources following the order, more or less, of presentation in that series, beginning with Trouble to See prelude.

Newer material (added 6/19/20) is long, so I’m trying to reorganize it. Tags now allow for jumping, but structure is not entirely complete. Please share additional resources. Comments on particular items or the whole list most welcome.

Basic Intro to BLM/M4BL
Jews, movement, and policing
Related organizations and their demands

Movement, Organization, Action, Demand

There is a lot of confusion around the terms “Black Lives Matter” and “Movement for Black Lives.” Some of this is due the organic development and decentralized nature of the movement and its organizations. But some of this is due, as well, to a variety of attempts to re-mold or directly hijack the original and evolving messages of BLM and M4BL. In particular, it seems very hard for some people to get that “defund the police” and “abolish jails” actually mean what they say; it appears much easier for many people outside the movement to “explain” away the actual positions and to replace them with all manner of other policies.

Here, to the best of my ability, is an attempt to synthesize the basics for those who want more information. There is no substitute for actually reading the materials from the various organizations involved, and links are provided below to facilitate that; but time and attention are limited, so here is a place to get started. If I got anything wrong, or if you have an edit to suggest, please advise.

BLM and M4BL

“Black Lives Matter” is a movement and an organization. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) encompasses BLM as an organization and more than 100 others plus individuals. Juneteenth weekend 2020, hundreds of thousands of people engaged in M4BL-organized action in DC and around the country. Activities here in DC and elsewhere also include a host of others celebrating Juneteenth and lifting up “Black Lives Matter” messages in a variety of ways — some eventually linking up with M4BL’s “Six Nineteen” and some doing their own thing.

BLACK LIVES MATTER (Hashtag >>> Global Network)
“Black Lives Matter” grew out of response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s vigilante murderer in 2013 and then the 2014 police murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. Here is early herstory and some background on the three radical Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — who launched the hashtag. Many groups in and beyond Ferguson and St. Louis worked to create the movement which came to be known as “BLM.” An organization called “Black Lives Matter Global Network” is now just one part of the BLM movement.

Here are some of the organizations involved in Ferguson:
Assata’s Daughters — Chicago
Organization for Black Liberation — St. Louis
Ferguson Response Network (largely stagnant but historically interesting)

UPDATE JUNE 2021: PLEASE READ this from the BLM10Plus (chapters)

The “Movement for Black Lives” got its start in 2014, held a national convening in Cleveland in 2015, and posted policy positions beginning in 2016. The “Six Nineteen” activities in 2020 follow #ReclaimMLK and other national organizing in previous years.

M4BL — The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) seeks to reach millions, mobilize hundreds of thousands, and organize tens of thousands, so that Black political power is a force able to influence national and local agendas in the direction of our shared Vision for Black Lives.
— — more at About Us

list of partners from all over the country and nationally for Six Nineteen

Jews, Movement, and Policing

The history of Jewish response to the August 2016 platform of M4BL is complicated for many reasons, not the least of which is failure of so many Jews who weighed in on the matter to actually read the platform.

…Educational activity: Four years on, ask a group of Jews in your various communities how many have opinions on M4BL. Then ask how many have read the platform and other materials….

In 2017, the J Street Conference included a panel called “Bridging Divides, Rebuilding Alliances: How Can the Jewish and Black Communities Work Together?” to explore “major tension over the stance on Israel in the Movement for Black Lives platform.” As a friend pointed out afterward: The whole panel focused on one issue, mostly on one word, and Jewish reaction to it; no one talked about other aspects of the M4BL platform and whether Jewish communities were prepared to stand against capitalism and military and police more generally. (Here, for the record, is the J Street session.)

This J Street session is an example of a regular pattern: M4BL or another Black-led organization speaks, and many Jewish organizations respond without actually engaging the material or the position as it was raised by the Black leaders, often ignoring Black people within the Jewish community in the process. This is not to single out J Street or the organizations represented in the panel that day; this is just a prominent example: It happens all the time; it’s been happening; and it will continue to happen unless and until Jews center Black voices and concerns, in- and outside our own communities, and stop centering Jewish ones.

The M4BL’s invest-divest position (dating from 2016) includes a serious discussion of US involvement in Africa, interference in Central and South America, and the large percentage of the U.S. military budget that goes to Israel and Egypt. The same section speaks of genocide throughout Africa as well as genocide against Palestinians. (Here’s the 2016 format via the WayBack Machine; and here’s the neater, later version in which many of the details are in PDF — exact same info; different delivery system). Many Jews were outraged by mentions of Israel and seemed uninterested in the rest (or unaware).

In an attempt to get over or around earlier objections, a number of Jewish organizations and individuals have responded to recent police killings (2020) in ways that emphasize the multiplicity of opinions within BLM, as a movement, and attempt to define M4BL as separate from BLM.

E.g., from Reform Judaism:

Our disagreement with the positions of specific organizations, such as the Movement for Black Lives platform, in no way diminishes our full commitment to the fundamental principle that Black Lives Matter and to doing the work to end systemic racism and white supremacy.

Recommendation from three independent Jews (not movement or organization):

Explicit endorsement that Black Lives Matter.

Recognizing that Black Lives Matter is a statement that is inherently true and should be accepted without caveat or qualification. [No additional detail or further action suggestion.]

For general background purposes: compendium of responses from Jewish organizations to the killing of George Floyd.

These shifts to vaguer descriptions of Black Lives Matter as a movement have, whatever their intention, resulted in beliefs on the part of many Jews and Jewish organizations, that supporting “Black Lives Matter” can mean taking a range of positions on policing, even ones that directly contradict M4BL or BLM.

Organizations and their Demands

Black Youth Project 100
DC Chapter
— many other chapters, too: find yours)

BYP100 is National, member-based organization of Black 18-35 year old activists and organizers, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. We do this through building a network focused on transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy, and political education using a Black queer feminist lens.

We have five main core values to ensure effective operations and engagement of the members of our organization:…democratic, consensus driven process…; promote each other’s growth within the collective; honor multiple truths and understand that we are experts of our own experience…; stress holistic energy…; radical and purposeful inclusion of all Black people, including but not limited to a diversity of: sex, gender, class, citizenship status, sexuality, physical ability, education experiences, and faith. — BYP About

Dread Defenders

Dream Defenders are Abolitionists:

We are fighting for a world without prisons, policing, surveillance and punishment. We know that prisons aren’t about safety or accountability but about control and domination over large segments of the population, especially Black people, in order to make a profit. We are different from prison reformers because reformers often create situations where incarceration becomes even more entrenched in our society. Instead, we are fighting for solutions that will produce decarceration, fewer people behind bars and a future world without prisons. This is why Dream Defenders will never fight for the conviction of a police officer: prisons are not about safety, accountability, or justice.

In order to get us closer to this vision, we must begin to build community alternatives to dealing with harm and violence. Dream Defenders practices transformative justice, an abolitionist way of dealing with conflict and holding people accountable in opposition to the punitive nature of the prison system that treats people as disposable, locks them up and throws away the key. — Dream Defenders

Black Lives Matter Global Network
In addition to the information above, BLM has three current positions:
1) Defund Police Position on Police:

We call for an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken.

We call for a national defunding of police. We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive. If you’re with us, add your name to the petition right now and help us spread the word. — Defund

2) Invest in Black Communities:

Currently, we are fighting two deadly viruses: COVID-19 is threatening our health. White Supremacy is threatening our existence. And both are killing us every single day.

We demand real transformation NOW. Transformation that will hold law enforcement accountable for the violence they inflict, transformation of this racist system that breeds corruption, and transformation that ensures our people are not left behind — scroll down in same link as “defund”

3) What Matters (voting):

BLM’s #WhatMatters2020 is a campaign aimed to maximize the impact of the BLM movement by galvanizing BLM supporters and allies to the polls in the 2020 U.S Presidential Election to build collective power and ensure candidates are held accountable for the issues that systematically and disproportionately impact Black and under-served communities across the nation.
What Matters 2020

The local, DC Black Lives Matter calls generally for the following:
Divest from Metropolitan Police Department
Invest in Community Safety
Police-Free Schools
In addition, there are calls for “No new jails” and “Decriminalize Sex Work”

Movement for Black Lives
In addition to information above, M4BL has three demands for this weekend: 1) Defund Police, 2) Invest in Black Communities, and 3) Call for resignation of the president. More generally —

  • “We are Abolitionist…”
  • “We believe in transformation and a radical realignment of power…”
  • “We build kinship with one another…” and
  • “We are anti-capitalist.”

On the abolitionist point:

We believe that prisons, police and all other institutions that inflict violence on Black people must be abolished and replaced by institutions that value and affirm the flourishing of Black lives.

See also:

A Reallocation of Funds at the Federal, State and Local Level From Policing and Incarceration (JAG, COPS, VOCA) to Long-Term Community Based Safety Strategies Such As Education, Local Restorative Justice Services, and Employment Programs — from Divest-Invest


Few More New Items

Actor-Ally-Accomplice one pager, and more from “White Accomplices”

Racial Equality glossary: some useful definitions; also interesting to compare this one from 2019 with older lists, e.g., this one from 2014.

ColorInsight –
The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming our Communities Through Mindfulness. Rhonda V. Magee. NY: Penguin, 2019.

Free PDF introduction to ColorInsight ideas (PDF downloads fine, even though graphics on screen look odd): The Way of ColorInsight: Understanding Race andLaw Effectively Through Mindfulness-Based ColorInsight Practices

Author’s website Rhonda V. Magee

Trouble to See Resources

Note that some of these are out of date. Sorry. Will update as time permits.

Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb. The Particulars of Rapture. NY: Doubleday, 2001.

“Make the Omer Count,” series on blog. See also “Exodus from Racism.” The original “Trouble to see” post is here

Algren, Nelson. Chicago: City on the Make. 60th Anniversary Edition. Chgo: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2011. Originally published 1951. Addendum 1961.

Your Own Story. The stories of congregations and other collective bodies.

Liberated Muse Arts Group. Expelling Creases from the Fold anthology forthcoming. Visit LiberatedMuse for more information on the group’s offerings.

Ignatiev, Noel. How the Irish Became White. NY: Routledge, 1995.Russell, Thaddeus. A Renegade History of the United States. NY: Free Press, 2010.

Russell, Thaddeus. A Renegade History of the United States. NY: Free Press, 2010.

powell, john a. Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012. Spectacular reference section (especially given how few books bother to include at all)

Harris, Cheryl I. “Whiteness as Property.” Harvard Law Review, 1992-1993. widely available on-line.

Mendelsohn, Adam. “Don’t Whitewash Charleston’s Jewish History of Racism.” Forward June 22, 2015.

Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism has lots of resources and position papers going back decades. See also and

The Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative Judaism) has many position papers as well.

Bergstein, Eleanor. Commentary on “Dirty Dancing” (independent, 1987), Ultimate Edition DVD, 2003. Same remarks oft-quoted in news stories at the time of the movie release and later.

“Remembering Chicago’s great school boycott of 1963” in Chicago Reader 2013.

’63 Boycott documentary in progress with call for recollections and photos. Lots of info already up.

Chicago Jewish Historical Society has newsletters, including articles about Leon Despres.

White Flight graphic is based on U.S. Census data. (Source lost, sorry).

Suarez, Ray. The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration 1966-1999. NY: The Free Press, 1999

For racism history, generally, see, e.g.:
Kendi, Ibram X. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. NY: Nations Books, 2016.

King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Boston: Beacon Press, 2010 (reprint of 1967 work)

Berger, Maurice. White Lies: Race and the Myth of Whiteness. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.

Hidary, Vanessa. Signature piece, “Hebrew Mamita,” widely available in original and extended versions. Print collection: The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega. Brooklyn, NY: Penmanship Books, 2011

MaNishtana –  Text works, available on website, include: Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe and “Fine, thanks. How are you, Jewish?”: A Stream of Consciousness Stroll Through the Jew of Color Mind

Michael Twitty, @KosherSoul – AfroCulinaria. Author of The Cooking Gene (forthcoming) Speech at JUFJ Racial Justice Seder, 2015.

Edugyan, Esi. Half-Blood Blues (a novel). NY: Picador, 2011.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Blacks during the Holocaust” and “Rhineland Bastards.”

On Jews, Blacks, and music, see, e.g.:
Collis, John. The Story of Chess Records. NY: Bloomsbury, 1998. See also 4-part YouTube series called “The Chess Records Story”

Stratton, Jon. Jews, Race, and Popular Music. Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2009.

White, Miles. From Jim Crow to Jay-Z: Race, Rap, and the Performance of Masculinity. Univ. of Illinois Press, 2011.

Whitfield, Stephen J. American Space, Jewish Time: Essays in Modern Culture and Politics. North Haven, CT: Archon Books, 1988

“A Change Is Gonna Come.” Sam Cooke, released posthumously 1964. For the radio version, studio removed “I go to the movie….” verse, considered “political.”

SongRise, is DC’s “all women social justice a cappella group! We use our music to inspire the fight for social change.”

They performed at JUFJ’s Black Lives Matter Chanukah event, 2014. Here’s their “Change is Gonna Come”

Jews United for Justice. Look for JUFJ’s YouTube Channel. Includes 12 videos from 2014 Chanukah event and others of related interest. SongRise’s performance

We Act Radio’s Education Town Hall

DC Action for Children

Emeke, Cecile. “Ackee and Saltfish.” 2015.

A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice.”

Herron, Carolivia. “Why I’m Not Going to Say Anything About Ferguson” and more — See also

T’ruah statement on the Movement for Black Lives Platform

Organizational Links:

American Jewish World Service’ “Jewish Texts for Social Justice
Be’chol Lashon: In Every Tongue –
Bend the Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice
Jewish Multiracial Network
Jewish Social Justice Roundtable
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights –

Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation. –
ColorLines – published by Race Forward –
In specific, highly recommend: “Moving the Race Conversation Forward,” (two short videos)
See also everything else Jay Smooth has to say. Seriously.

Black Youth Project – See, especially, “Agenda to Keep Us Safe.” 2014

Light Brigade is a protest project of Code Pink – see

More links, just FYI:

Charleston Syllabus

Mizzou Syllabus

Spearman, Rev. T. Anthony Rev. Critical Issues Seminar 2016: Sermon. NC Council of Churches.

Barash-Hagans, Sarah. “For the Sin of Racism: A Racial Justice Vidui”