Why She Needed to Create the Jews of Color Torah Academy

JOC Torah Academy 

My friend and colleague Yehudah Webster and I co-founded Ammud, the Jews of Color Torah Academy, in the Spring of 2019, as a space for Jewish education for Jews of Color by Jews of Color. The project was incubated in the Jews of Color Caucus at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). We borrowed the name JOC Torah Academy from Yavilah McCoy, a prominent organizer and educator who has for many years been building the bedrock for JOC visibility and community on which we stand. We began this past year to feature members of the JOC community as teachers and watched as participants arrived from around New York City, online through Zoom, and even from other states, traveling long ways to come and learn. 

One day a week, Ammud hosts a beginning Hebrew course, a conversational Hebrew group, and an open Beit Midrash, where participants can learn in community and chevruta partnerships. Every other week, we engage in seminar-style learning in cycles of mini-courses featuring JOC leaders. We meet at NYU’s Bronfman Center, one of our official partners, Despite the challenges of racism that many JOCs face daily, it is not all so dismal, and we are not solely building this community as a response to a lack. Rather, we are dreaming up new realities, celebrating each other, working to ensure we are a space for restorative dialogue, where we love and protect each other and hold oppressive behavior accountable, and sharing learning for this world and the one to come.  

I am a musician and davening leader in a mostly White Ashkenazi community. This year, as I played, I held an extra kind of warmth inside of me, knowing there is a home base for me at Ammud, where I will be seen as fully Jewish and never questioned, where I can learn from voices often on the margins of the Jewish world, and deepen my own Torah.

Arielle Korman founded the JOC Torah Academy in early 2019 along with Yehudah Webster. She is a current graduate student in Jewish Studies at Columbia University, a musician and Jewish song leader, and a member leader at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) in New York City.  

At ammud.org, you can learn more, view FAQs on the term “Jews of Color” as well as other topics, and donate to help sustain and grow this work. JOCs are welcome and encouraged to join a class or simply join as a member, and non-JOCs are invited to join as members of the Allies Circle, which grants access to select events and materials.