A leading black Jewish journalist yesterday rallied the community to “change the culture” which made Jews of colour feel excluded.
Nadine Batchelor-Hunt, whose bylines include the Guardian and Huffington Post, told Limmud attendees: “Within Jewish spaces there is a tendency for black Jewish people to be stared at or feel like they have to qualify their Jewishness. Often I’m asked how do you know Hebrew and what is your Jewish background in a way that white Jewish people never experience.
“These microaggressions are exhausting and as a community we should be mindful of creating a more inclusive space.”
The activist cited an example of recently moving to Manchester and feeling worried about buying Mezuzah scrolls “because of the anxiety of having people in a new area staring at me.”
She also described feeling hurt after the rapper Wiley spewed antisemitic abuse over social media and accused her of ‘not being black’.
“It showed me how nebulous a black Jewish person’s identity can be,” she said. “It was very messy.”
“It also reiterated to me that fighting anti-black racism and antisemitism needed to be part of the same fight. Calling out Wiley’s antisemitism was just as important as calling out anti-blackness by Jewish people.”
The journalist added that a subsequent torrent of abuse had forced her into reducing her social media consumption, but that she felt “comforted knowing I am saying things that are important.”
Batchelor-Hunt also recalled feeling “traumatised” during the 2019 General Election as a black Jew witnessing both forms of racism across the two main political parties.
Addressing over 100 Limmud attendees, she added: “For me as a Black Jew, I’ve always seen fighting racism against Jews and black people as indivisible from each other. The Jewish community is amazingly diverse and so any fight against racism should be seen as a Jewish fight.”
On the Black Lives Matter movement, she noted: “Fundamentally, if we recognise our community isn’t just a White monolith, but rather is an absolute spectrum of ethnicities from across the world, then Black Lives Matter automatically becomes a Jewish issue.”
On what the community could do to improve the culture, Batchelor-Hunt suggested inviting Jewish ethnic minorities to lead synagogue services and to incorporate their historic tunes.
She also argued that a wider scope of Jewish history, beyond the European-centric experience, needed to be taught in schools: “Many Mizrahi feel frustrated that the crimes against the Jewish community in the Arab world in the 1970s aren’t examined enough,” she explained.
Concluding the wide-ranging discussion, the activist expressed her “hope” in a future where the “key Jewish values of equality and justice” were upheld by the entire community.
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