Juneteenth Kabbalat Shabbat
Date: Friday, June 18, 2021
Time: 2:00pm PT / 5:00pm ET
Co-sponsored by 18Doors, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, OneTable, PJ Library, Union for Reform Judaism, National Museum of American Jewish History, Reconstructing Judaism, Jewish Federations of North America, Keshet, and Avodah’s Jews of Color Bayit
Recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday is a gesture, but this gesture is important. This gesture won’t redress systemic inequality, or in any way make amends for centuries of chattel slavery. What it will do, however, is to bring Juneteenth into everyday conversation. Subsequent generations will grow up celebrating Juneteenth. As Jews, we’re familiar with the importance of a holiday wrapped around the story of a people’s hard-won freedom. Like Passover, the story of Juneteenth is also worthy of a yearly retelling. It’s an African-American story, so it, too, is a Jewish story.
Juneteenth is the most recognized African-American holiday observance in the United States and celebrates African American history, culture and progress. The holiday is also referred to as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day.
June 19, 1865 is considered the date when the last slaves in America were freed. Although the rumors of freedom were widespread prior to this, actual emancipation did not come until General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and that 250,000 enslaved people were now free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier (January 1, 1863), Texas was the most remote of the slave states with few Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow.
On January 1, 1980, “Emancipation Day in Texas” became an official state holiday and California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia, and Washington, D.C followed. Today, only four states (Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana) do not recognize Juneteenth. In 2018, Apple added Juneteenth to its calendars in iOS under official US holidays. Juneteenth continues to expand as Black Americans seek to make sure that the events of 1865 are not lost to history. Juneteenth is increasing in popularity in the US and activists finally won the recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday in 2021.
Juneteenth celebrations often focuses on education and prayers with guest speakers and elders who recount the events of the past. Certain foods have became popular with Juneteenth celebrations such as strawberry soda, barbecue, watermelon and red velvet cake are several red foods, symbolizing the blood and resilience of former slaves. For others, it means indulging in traditional black Southern cuisine like fried chicken, collard greens and cornbread.
As Martin Luther King said in his “I have a dream” speech, “Until All are Free, None are Free,” an oft repeated maxim that highlights the significance of the end of the era of slavery in the United States.
Rabbi Sandra Lawson (she/her) is the Director of Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism for Reconstructing Judaism where works with senior staff, lay leaders, clergy, rabbinical students, and Reconstructionist communities to help Reconstructing Judaism realize its deeply held aspiration of becoming an anti-racist organization and movement. A social media pioneer, Lawson models what it means to teach Torah in digital spaces. She has built a following of more than 50,000 people on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. In 2020, the Forward named Lawson to its “Forward 50” proclaiming her a “truth teller”. She lives in North Carolina with her wife Susan and three “fur babies”: Izzy, Bridget and Simon.
Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein serves as Rabbinic Scholar and Public Affairs Advisor at Jewish Federations of North America and grew up in a mixed-race family in the ultra-orthodox community of Monsey, NY. Isaiah most recently served as Rabbi-in-Residence at Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability. He is the co-founder of the Jewish Youth Climate Movement and Kamochah, a community for Black Orthodox Jews. He served as Spiritual Leader at Carmel Academy in Greenwich Connecticut and as Youth Director at the Young Israel of Stamford. He received his rabbinic ordination his masters in social work from Yeshiva University. Rothstein is a member of the Schusterman Foundation’s ROI Fellowship and was listed as one of the Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36. When he is not working to keep the world safe for democracy, Isaiah is writing a musical about Queen Esther.
Rebecca S’manga Frank is a Black American Jew descendant from the Kingdom of Eswatini and Eastern Europe. She is a writer, actor, director, educator and filmmaker. She last performed in Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and on FOX’s Prodigal Son. She’s acted with Sundance Theatre Lab in Morocco, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and at many regional and off-broadway theaters. In 2020 Rebecca penned a “Psalm for Racial Justice” for Hillel International. Her writing has been featured at the Jewish Theological Seminary, JCC Manhattan, with Reboot for DAWN, and many other artistic, academic, and religious institutions. Rebecca is a 2021 New York LABA fellow at the 14th st Y, a New Jewish Culture fellow and a B’Yachad educator fellow. She is an alum of NYU Grad Acting at Tisch, and the creative writing program at Mills College.
Robin Washington, an acclaimed veteran journalist from Minnesota, is currently an Editor-at-Large at the Forward as well as hosting a weekly public affairs program for Wisconsin Public Media. A longtime senior editor, columnist, radio host and documentarian across mainstream and ethnic media, he was one of the founders of the Alliance of Black Jews and an early pioneer of the term, “Jew of color” more than two decades ago. He has been active in civil rights since age three and won an Emmy for producing the documentary, Vermont: The Whitest State in the Union, about African American in that state.
Sabrina Sojourner traces her family roots to Texas. She has been leading services, teaching, and cultivating curiosity within Judaism and beyond for most of her life. She is a chaplain who brings a deep sense of spirituality, compassion and song to all she does. Hazzanit Sojourner has been a featured speaker, scholar-in-residence, and faculty at Jewish and secular institutions, conferences, retreats, and gatherings across the country. Together with Tamara Fish and Meagan Madison, Sabrina is a Co-Founding Executive Director of KHAZBAR: An Oasis in the Desert for Our Diverse Jewish Communities, a resource for gathering, exchanging, mixing, educating, sharing spiritual technology, healing, and centering the diversity of our Jewish people and organizations.
Eric Greene is a Los Angeles-based writer, racial justice activist and member of the board of Jewish Multiracial Network for whom he wrote the Kaddish for Black Lives. Of Black, Native American and eastern European heritage, he is a long-time organizer in local and national Jews of Color circles. Eric has worked for leading civil rights organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, ACLU and Progressive Jewish Alliance and has written or contributed to half a dozen books on race, politics and popular culture.
Marcella White Campbell is the Executive Director of Be’chol Lashon, an organization that has advocated for the diversity of the Jewish people for more than 20 years. Before joining Be’chol Lashon, Marcella was a branding and storytelling consultant. Marcella holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MA in Literature from SFSU. Her writing has been published in numerous outlets, including The Forward, Kveller, Huffington Post, and Jewish&. Marcella lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.
Shekhiynah Larks is a diversity trainer and the Program Coordinator at Be’chol Lashon. Among her various projects, she manages the Teen Tzedek Project. She is writer and active on Be’chol Lashon’s publication, Jewish&. She holds a BA in politics from the University of San Francisco. She is a native of Oakland and is very involved in Jewish life in the Bay Area.
JFNA proudly represent 146 independent Federations and a network of 300 smaller communities across the continent. Our mission is to protect and enhance the well-being of Jews worldwide through meaningful contributions to community, Israel and civil society.
The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, presents educational programs and experiences that preserve, explore, and celebrate the history of Jews in America. Its purpose is to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which Americans aspire.
The Union Reform Judaism (URJ) strives to create a more whole, just, and compassionate world. We motivate people from diverse backgrounds to participate and deepen their engagement in Jewish life; create a more inclusive Jewish community; help congregations stay adept and agile; develop teen and adult leaders to lead transformation for the future; foster meaningful connections to Israel; and agitate for a more progressive society.
Reconstructing Judaism is the central organization of the Reconstructionist movement. We train the next generation of rabbis, support and uplift congregations and havurot, foster emerging expressions of Jewish life, and encourage people to be their best selves — always helping to shape what it means to be Jewish today and to imagine the Jewish future.
18Doors empowers people in interfaith relationships—individuals, couples, families and their children—to engage in Jewish life and make Jewish choices, and encourages Jewish communities to welcome them
Together with our community, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan creates opportunities for people to connect, grow, and learn within an ever-changing Jewish landscape. MMJCCM imagines Jewish life that is diverse and engages meaningfully with its values, culture, and ideas in everyday lives.
A program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, PJ Library delivers more than 680,000 free Jewish children’s books each month in over 30 countries and seven languages. Kids from birth through age eight receive curated book selections and accompanying activities. An older kids’ program, PJ Our Way, gives nine through twelve-year-olds the freedom of choosing their own middle-grade book or graphic novel each month. PJ Library’s books have become everyday favorites, whether the stories serve as first introductions to Jewish values and culture or inspire families to create new Jewish traditions at home. To find out more, visit pjlibrary.org.
OneTable empowers out-of-college millennials (21-39) to find, host, and share Shabbat dinners to make the most of their Friday night and enjoy the best of life together.
Keshet works for the full equality of all LGBTQ Jews and our families in Jewish life. We strengthen Jewish communities. We equip Jewish organizations with the skills and knowledge to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, create spaces in which all queer Jewish youth feel seen and valued, and advance LGBTQ rights nationwide.
Avodah is proud to announce its first ever Jews of Color (JOC) Bayit in New York City for the 2021-2022 program year. Spend a year in the Jewish Service Corps working at a leading anti-poverty nonprofit in New York City. Our Corps Members live and learn together in a supportive, pluralistic community at the crossroads of justice and Jewish life.