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Author(s): Bush, Stephen
Date: 2021
Abstract: The brutal, racist murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 sparked a reckoning about the treatment of Black people all over the world, and the undeniable reality of systemic racism and discrimination in societies on both sides of the Atlantic. We vociferously expressed our concerns about this at the time. However, we realised that we needed to go further. No community is immune from the scourge of prejudice and ours is no exception. As society as a whole sought to examine racial diversity, the Board of Deputies became aware of moving and concerning testimonies of Black members of our own community about their experiences.

As such, we launched this Commission to learn more about the experiences of Black Jews, Jews of Colour and Sephardi, Mizrahi and Yemenite Jews, to examine the issues and make recommendations for how our community can do better. We were delighted that the eminent journalist of Black and Jewish heritage, Stephen Bush, agreed to Chair the Commission.

The report’s release in the week that George Floyd’s murderer has been found guilty, and on this year’s Stephen Lawrence Day, feels particularly poignant, especially given the Commission’s many references to the Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Our Commission has considered 17 different areas of communal life, and the ground-breaking report makes 119 recommendations, with profound implications for British Jewry. Among them are the following:



Representative bodies and organisations involved in rabbinic training should encourage members of under-represented ethnic groups to put themselves forward for communal roles
Jewish schools should ensure that their secular curriculum engages with Black history, enslavement and the legacy of colonialism, and review their curriculum through a process led by students, particularly those who define as Black or of Colour
Jewish studies departments should ensure that their teaching celebrates and engages with the racial and cultural diversity of the Jewish community worldwide, including Mizrahi, Sephardi and Yemenite tradition
Communal institutions, particularly synagogues and schools, should commemorate key dates for diverse parts of the community, like the Ethiopian Jewish festival of Sigd and the official Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran (30th November)
Schools and youth movements should improve training for teachers and youth leaders on tackling racist incidents
Communal bodies and Jewish schools should establish regular listening exercises that seek the concerns of their members or students
Communal bodies should ensure that complaints processes are accessible, transparent, fair and robust, with all complaints related to racism handled according to the Macpherson principle, and specific new processes for handling complaints about security
Communal venues should ensure that their security guards or volunteers desist from racial profiling
Communal venues should institute bag searches for all visitors, including regular attendees, so as not to stigmatise people who look different, without compromising on security
A code of conduct should be developed for discourse on social media, making clear that attempts to delegitimise converts, calling people names such as ‘Kapo’, or using Yiddish terms such as ‘Shvartzer’ in a racist way, are completely unacceptable
Batei Din should improve processes for conversion, including stricter vetting of teachers and host families, and a clearer process for complaints
Author(s): Tiffany, Austin
Date: 2018
Author(s): Goluboff, Sascha L.
Date: 2002
Abstract: The prevalence of anti-Semitism in Russia is well known, but the issue of race within the Jewish community has rarely been discussed explicitly. Combining ethnography with archival research, Jewish Russians: Upheavals in a Moscow Synagogue documents the changing face of the historically dominant Russian Jewish community in the mid-1990s. Sascha Goluboff focuses on a Moscow synagogue, now comprising individuals from radically different cultures and backgrounds, as a nexus from which to explore issues of identity creation and negotiation. Following the rapid rise of this transnational congregation—headed by a Western rabbi and consisting of Jews from Georgia and the mountains of Azerbaijan and Dagestan, along with Bukharan Jews from Central Asia—she evaluates the process that created this diverse gathering and offers an intimate sense of individual interactions in the context of the synagogue's congregation.

Challenging earlier research claims that Russian and Jewish identities are mutually exclusive, Goluboff illustrates how post-Soviet Jews use Russian and Jewish ethnic labels and racial categories to describe themselves. Jews at the synagogue were constantly engaged in often contradictory but always culturally meaningful processes of identity formation. Ambivalent about emerging class distinctions, Georgian, Russian, Mountain, and Bukharan Jews evaluated one another based on each group's supposed success or failure in the new market economy. Goluboff argues that post-Soviet Jewry is based on perceived racial, class, and ethnic differences as they emerge within discourses of belonging to the Jewish people and the new Russian nation.