Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) was founded in 1990 to “fill the need for progressive Jewish leadership in confronting the growing racial and ethnic tension and economic disparity within New York City.” Lamenting that Israel had long been “a strong supporter of South Africa’s white supremacist, Apartheid regime,” the nascent JFREJ aimed “to push back squarely against this impulse in the Jewish establishment — to demonstrate that it was possible for Jews to stand firmly against racism, and in solidarity with those opposing it.” Partnering with “ally organizations led by low-income people, immigrants and people of color,” JFREJ today uses community organizing, “political education,” and arts and cultural programming to “expose injustice and win policy changes” at the local and city-wide level. Its ultimate objective is to facilitate “systemic change” rooted in “the idea of radical diasporism.”
According to Guidestar.org, JFREJ administers three major ongoing initiatives. Its Immigrant Justice/Racial Justice Campaign was launched in October 2002 “to stem the tide of racism and anti-immigrant fervor sweeping the city (and country) in the wake of September 11th.” The Justice for Domestic Workers Program was launched in 2003 to advocate on behalf of black and Latina nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers throughout the city. And the Housing Justice Program seeks to harness the power of local organizing and citywide coalitions to “stop the loss of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units from rent-regulated to market-prices.” Moreover, it demands that “the creation of more affordable housing” be part of any new development projects that are approved in the New York area.
Committed to “ending” what it views as the ubiquitous scourge of “anti-Black racism,” JFREJ held a “Jews4BlackLives Month of Action” in August 2016. That same month, the organization announced that it was “thrilled, moved, inspired, and challenged” by the newly released “Vision for Black Lives” platform drafted by the Black Lives Matter-affiliated Movement For Black Lives. Moreover, JFREJ’s Jews of Color Caucus held a public demonstration/vigil in support of Black Lives Matter. The participants at this gathering demanded: (a) “an end to police violence against People of Color,” and (b) the New York City Council’s passage of the “Right To Know Act.” This legislation would require police officers, in every encounter with a civilian, to identify themselves, explain the reason for the official interaction, and explicitly convey the person’s right to refuse a search.
In a July 8, 2015 interview with GoodmenProject.com, JFREJ executive director Marjorie Dove Kent stated that white Jews, like all other whites, are the beneficiaries of “race privilege in the United States.” Effective “anti-racist work,” added Kent, must include “deconstructing racialization and whiteness in ourselves and our community, and fighting against white supremacy in our organization, our movement, and our city.”
Further Reading: “Jews for Racial & Economic Justice” (Guidestar.org); “Jews4BlackLives: Call to Action,” (by JFREJ, 8-9-16); “An Interview with Marjorie Dove Kent of JFREJ” (by GoodmenProject.com, 7-8-15).