Building a Welcoming Community with WHC’s Jews of Color

White man in sportcoat stands next to Black man in denim shirt and kippah.

By Linda Adams & Joshua Maxey

The Jews of Color (JOC) affinity group was created in early 2020 as an outgrowth of our discussions about diversity and inclusion with supportive clergy, staff, and congregants who participated in WHC’s inaugural SEA Change cohort.

We envisioned the JOC affinity group as a space within WHC that attracts and connects folks with shared dual identities.   A group that encourages and supports honest and challenging conversations with other congregants, staff, and clergy to ensure that our programs, celebrations, publications, and overall communications address the complexities of our dual identities as Jews and people of color and reflects the full diversity of WHC.

We have faced several challenges over the past four years as we have attempted to build on the initial robust responses within WHC to identify and address systemic racism and antisemitism. We remain steadfast in ensuring that everyone who walks through WHC’s doors are embraced and welcomed as b’tzelem Elohim — in the image of God.

WHC’s Shabbat greeters, under the leadership of Laura Loeb, model behaviors that demonstrate a deep understanding of the importance of creating and maintaining an atmosphere of belonging.

We realized our biggest success when we planned and initiated Juneteenth Shabbat 2021 alongside Rabbi Shankman and Cantor Bortnick, in celebration of the official end of slavery in the United States. This special service included outstanding speakers and musicians who uplifted the theme of freedom and inclusion.

Participation in Juneteenth Shabbat celebrated the Friday before June 19th has grown steadily over the past three years. Juneteenth Shabbat 2023 was attended by over two hundred community members including congregants from local churches.

Planning for Juneteenth Shabbat 2024 on Friday, June 14, 6:00 pm at Temple, is underway in collaboration with Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin and Cantor Suzanne Hamstra. We look forward to a joyful and meaningful celebration of freedom.

We will continue to seek opportunities for growth in recognition that WHC leadership appreciates that JOCs bring a unique perspective to our congregation that can lead to many opportunities to build a more just, equitable, and inclusive world for us all.

For more information, visit the Jews of Color group, or contact: Linda Adams, or Joshua Maxey,