August 2, 2023

Rekindling Black-Jewish Dialogue in Greater MetroWest

A cohort of community members recently completed the inaugural run of the Greater MetroWest chapter of the Rekindle Fellowship, hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ through a generous grant by JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America).

The Rekindle Fellowship, a deliberate way to bring two diverse communities together, has run six successful cohorts in Cleveland, OH. The dialogue series comes to Greater MetroWest amid record levels of antisemitism and racial biases not only in New Jersey, nationwide, but also globally. Throughout April and May, our 12-person cohort, which consisted of rising African American and Jewish American community leaders, ages 30-60, participated in a series of five dialogue sessions during which they reflected on various readings and current events. Through intensive and structured meetings, the program aims to strengthen, invigorate, and forge new connections among Blacks and Jews that will lead to meaningful social change for all, through partnership. The initial cohort will remain intact as an Advisory Council as they continue to build partnership through an educational mentorship project. Experience some of their reflections here.

“The Rekindle program is an antidote to all the negativity that we have right now: the book bans, and not listening to one another, and disliking people just for being different,” said Dr. Khyati Joshi, the scholar who moderated the program. “The conversations weren’t always easy. Pointing a magnifying glass at your own biases never is. But everyone walked away with a much more nuanced understanding of each other’s communities, and with a desire to keep in touch and to share what they’d learned.”

A Rekindle participant shared, “This experience for me was very impactful. It was challenging having substantive conversations where things can feel a little awkward. But at the end of the day, it made me feel like I’m able to have these conversations and interactions going forward with my neighbors in other communities.”  Fellows in the program, in addition to genuine and free flowing dialogue, also reflected upon readings and excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, James Baldwin, Ta-nehisi Coates, and others, to name a few. From conversations on our own perceived biases, to questions birthed out of a genuine desire to learn, grow, and understand, to historical discussions on our communities and their challenges faced, the fellowship program offers a unique space to have raw, difficult, and rewarding exchange that will serve our communities and society for the better.

“We designed Rekindle to be replicated in other communities nationally,” said Matt Fieldman, the co-founder of Rekindle. “I want to congratulate the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest for successfully being the first community to launch its own chapter. We’re excited to continue to grow to new communities, so we can rekindle Black-Jewish dialogue and partnership.”

We are currently accepting applications for the second Rekindle Fellowship cohort from residents within Greater MetroWest (Essex, Morris, Sussex, Somerset and Union Counties). Sessions begin in January 2024. Click here to apply. For more information, contact Jacqueline Lipsius, Jewish Community Relations Council Associate, at [email protected].