‘As a Jew of Color, I Need More People in My Community to Speak Up’

Sitting on the stoop of his apartment building in Crown Heights early last week, Yehudah Webster took out his cellphone and began recording himself. Being a community organizer for the group Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, he had been conducting virtual meetings from his apartment all day and stepped out for some much-needed air.

“I feel like I’m drowning. I feel like I wanna run away from my own existence,” he said from behind his face mask. “I’ve had enough; black people have had enough. We can’t take this shit anymore.”

As he removed his eyeglasses and wiped away his tears, Webster, 28, added: “Please Hashem, deliver your people, we need you. I’m praying so much for humility to listen, the patience to hear and the courage to take action. And I hope that my white brothers, siblings and sisters can internalize that message.”

Webster’s prayer came as the United States was entering its second week of mass protests following the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota policeman on May 25. Across the country, increasing numbers of demonstrators have demanded racial justice and called on the authorities to defund the police. And for some American Jews, it really could be a matter of life and death.

‘Basic dignity’

Throughout her childhood, growing up with a white Jewish mother and African-American father, April Baskin, 36, had what she calls “informative experiences” surrounding race.

April Baskin speaking at a Black Lives Matter event in Boston, 2014. Jordyn Rozensky

Her biggest realization about racism came as she observed her “amazing, kind” father. “Seeing again and again that him dressing well, him speaking well, him having done well at school and having been a medic in the army … that none of that protected him from violence and discrimination over and over – it was such a powerful message for me to receive,” she tells Haaretz in a phone interview from Senegal, where she now lives with her partner.