For four decades the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) has been working to raise awareness of racism, and never have we had such a genuine interest from people asking how they can help tackle it.
Since the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, we have received a huge number of inquiries about what individuals and organisations can do, many asking: what can we do to help black people? Others have asked how best to show solidarity (sometimes referred to as allyship) with black communities.
While there are many facts and figures to show the extent of racism within British society, knowing what to do about it is more challenging. Understanding the way racism affects our own communities and wider society is an important first step.
Once that is better understood, the question soon changes from ‘what can we do to help black people’ to ‘what can we do to change organisations, government priorities and our own community so that members of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities feel that they are not excluded?’
To those who ask, we suggest ten simple steps. Call out and report racism. Listen to black voices. Make sure communal spaces are safe and inclusive for Jews of Colour. Teach Jewish children about black history and experience. Take action in your workplace. Back the campaign for a slavery memorial. Campaign for justice for Windrush victims. Campaign against child poverty. Advocate for greater refugee and asylum rights. And continue to support refugees and asylum seekers.
To make ourselves better informed, we can familiarise ourselves with black and Asian authors, journalists and thinkers, and thereafter we can make sure the curriculum in Jewish schools and cheders includes not just Black History Month but also a comprehensive study of the transatlantic slave trade and the richness and diversity of Black and Asian history and experience.
Our community has been exemplary in supporting asylum seekers and refugees, campaigning for fairer legislation to help them rebuild their lives in Britain, and this excellent work must continue, but to it we must add our campaigning for justice for black and Asian communities.
Moreover, we in the Jewish community recognise the importance of memorialising the tragic and central experiences in our history, so we should ensure that the government commemorates the totality of British history by funding a permanent memorial to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade.
Likewise, we must add our voices to those calling for the victims of the Windrush scandal to get justice and make sure that the “hostile environment” policy is consigned to the history books.
We can also tackle racism by amplifying a Jewish voice on child poverty. It is shocking that 45 percent of black children grow up in poverty compared to 26 percent of white children. It is widely known that growing up poor greatly affects your life chances.
We can do all this while taking a long, hard, honest look at the experience of Black Jews within our community, as the Board of Deputies’ recently formed Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community was established to do. I hope it also examines ways of undoing some of the injustices we have perpetuated.
There are of course many more than ten ways to tackle racism, but we hope that our suggestions will instigate much-needed conversations within our community so that we can engage in tangible actions to tackle the racial inequality which continues to blight our beloved Britain.
Reflecting on our own attitudes, scrutinising Jewish school curricula, even getting involved in the political process – all are necessary actions in order to fulfil our obligation to pursue justice, which is at the very heart of our Jewishness.