Hey, Judaism comes in all shades

Jared Jackson : He was inspired to start Jews in All Hues after recalling the rejection he'd felt as a black child growing up Jewish.
Jared Jackson : He was inspired to start Jews in All Hues after recalling the rejection he'd felt as a black child growing up Jewish.
Posted: August 19, 2013

WANT TO know what the young Jewish movers and shakers of the world are up to? Ask Philly's own Jared Jackson, back in town after an invitation-only international summit this summer in Jerusalem.

Jackson was among 150 representatives from 37 countries - including young Jews from India, China, Sweden, Rwanda, Moldova, New Zealand and Colombia - attending a five-day idea-swapping session in Israel this June.

There alongside him was Debbie Danon from London's Three Faiths Forum, a group founded to encourage dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews. And Agata Kaplon, from the German environmental organization Jews Go Green. And fellow American Matt Bar, whose Bible Raps group transforms Torah verses into rap lyrics. (He's opened for Outkast.)

"How do you describe awesomeness?" Jackson asks now, thinking back to the event, organized by the international Jewish group ROI Community. The group promotes entrepreneurial social activism around the world, with a membership that speaks 43 languages.

Jackson was there as the founder and executive director of Jews in All Hues, which advocates for "nontraditional" Jews - including converts, the children of intermarried couples and multi-ethnic Jews (including those adopted into Jewish families from countries far and wide).

He has a white Jewish mother and black Baptist father, and routinely hears from astonished people he meets: "You can't be Jewish and black!"

"My being, for some, causes cognitive dissonance," he said.

It shouldn't, since a slight majority of North American Jews now fall into the "nontraditional" category. Jackson leads seminars at synagogues, schools and Jewish organizations around the country (including the Germantown Jewish Center) to help members understand how dual-heritage individuals may feel ostracized within the Jewish community, and how to address it.

Jews in All Hues (online at jewsinallhues.org) also hosts shabbat dinners and other forums in which nontraditional Jews can share their experiences with each other.

Jackson had his inspiration to form the group during a trip to Israel five years ago. Sitting in the Arava Desert alone with his thoughts, he realized that the rejection he'd felt as a black child growing up Jewish - he's originally from Mount Airy and now lives in Willingboro, N.J. - would still be around to burden his young nieces and nephews unless something changed.

He founded Jews in All Hues, he said, to help protect them "and the next generation."

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