Blacks and Jews share a narrative of transforming a painful past into a redemptive future. The Biblical story of the exodus from Egypt has inspired our communities for centuries to pursue paths to liberation. During the Civil Rights Movement, we worked as allies in the struggle to end racial segregation. Black and Jewish clergy, students, community leaders and activists came together to support Dr. King’s dream of building Beloved Community, an America of racial equity and harmony.
Over the decades, the Black and Jewish communities went our separate ways. In order for our communities to flourish, there were some things we needed to do alone. And, invariably, tensions crept into our relationship. But today, with racism and antisemitism rising regionally, nationally and globally, there is great value for old friends to renew bonds of trust and friendship and turn toward one another for nourishment and support. We have unfinished business together. Dr. King’s vision for America still awaits realization.
This is an ideal moment in American history for Blacks and Jews to join forces again to resume the work of building beloved community.
Mark R. Jones, Ph.D. is the CEO of the Sunyata Group and a senior executive consultant with 45+ years’ experience developing and leading high-performance teams as Beloved Communities. Since 1983, Dr. Jones has designed and facilitated over 1000 meetings, workshops, and conferences designed to increase belonging and resilience. For the past three years, Dr. Jones has been using Beloved Community strategies to address inclusive community economic development through coalitions between cultural groups such as Black and Jewish communities, immigrant and native populations, and communities and real estate developers.
Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum is rabbi emeritus of Herzl-Ner Tamid Congregation in Mercer Island, WA after serving 17 years as HNT’s senior rabbi. As a congregational rabbi for 39 years, he has often been called upon to bring together people with opposing agendas. Rabbi Rosenbaum has devoted his life’s energy to making peace between ancient texts with modern sensibilities. He believes that if you can close the gap between two ideas, you can overcome the barriers between two human beings.
Cedric works as a trusted partner to help philanthropists build relationships and bridge their passions with critical community needs. From families to nonprofits to businesses, Cedric works with a wide variety of philanthropists to ensure they receive a personal approach to their community impact.
Diane partners with foundations and nonprofits to increase their impact through strategic planning, organizational development, program design and facilitation. She’s passionate about American pluralism and, both professionally and personally, works to foster civic engagement and community voice and power.
Dr. Angela Griffin is a visionary and inspirational leader with over 29 years of experience leading the development and implementation of programs for ages birth through young adulthood in both grassroots and national organizations. Dr. Griffin has dedicated her life and career to advancing equity in education, the community, and in the workplace. She has worked to build trusting and nurturing reciprocal relationships with communities of color and BIPOC-led organizations. She also has a passion for working with dominant culture conforming individuals, organizations, and systems to understand and address inequities that impact access to services and successful outcomes of diverse communities.
Dr. Griffin currently serves as the CEO of a Seattle-based nonprofit childcare organization. Prior to her current role, Dr. Griffin was instrumental in leading another WA based nonprofit in achieving its ambitious goal of increasing the graduation rate for youth experiencing foster care. She is a former elected official on a local school board of education and currently serves in an elected position on the WA State Board of Education. Dr. Griffin’s greatest accomplishment is being the proud parent of three thriving adult children and a teenage creative genius, as well as the grandmother of an adorable toddler.
Ed is the CEO ofThe Gottman Institute. The institute is dedicated to combining wisdom from research and practice to support and strengthen marriages, families, and relationships. In his spare time, you can find Ed making connections through visual storytelling, cooking, or listening to musicians ranging from Prince to Miles Davis.
Etana Kunovsky is a Co-Founder of The Gottman Institute (1996-2021). For 25 years, she helped grow and propel the research-based relationship institute into an internationally recognized and influential organization. Etana’s leadership, inspiration, program and product development is rooted in the mission of helping families, couples and individuals learn how to create greater understanding, compassion, love, health and happiness in their relationships. She has expanded her passion to assist Dr. Jones and Rabbi Rosenbaum in their work building relationships and collaboration between Black and Jewish communities, Muslims and Jews, and Jewish Affiliated and Non-Affiliated groups. Etana is honored to support the work of Building Black and Jewish Beloved Community.
Ruth E. Dvora Stern is a Blewish mama who was born into the Loving Generation. In her professional life, she is the head of Sternshus, Inc, a fintech research company now examining the common roots of racism and antisemitism using computational linguistics and creating financial applications to help her affected communities build generational wealth. You can find her personal experience navigating color, Jewishness, and womanhood on her blog: https://imablewishmama.com. She is devoted to building bridges within and between her beloved communities.
Ashira Solomon is a diversity and inclusion specialist from the Detroit metropolitan area. She discovered her interest in multiculturalism in high school, where she became co-chair of its first founded Diversity Council. Identifying as a multiracial Jewish woman, Ashira enjoys opportunities to explore her own intersectionality as well as opportunities to connect with individuals across all spectrums.
Audrey L. Covner has spent her career combing her education as an attorney and as a registered nurse and, now, as a Doctor of Nursing Practice. A lifelong community activist, Dr. Covner was engaged in the early days of the AIDS/HIV epidemic response, set up free legal service programs for marginalized communities, worked on legislation to improve health care, and is now working on criminal justice reform. Dr. Covner served as adjunct faculty teaching legislation in the law schools of Stanford University and the University of Santa Clara, and currently serves as Clinical Faculty at the University of Washington, School of Public Health.
Bishop Garry L. Tyson is pastor of Seattle’s Goodwill Baptist Church and President of the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest. Bishop Tyson has led two missionary trips to Haiti, and he and his wife, First Lady Nicole Tyson have frequently hosted the TBN broadcast of “Praise the Lord.” In 2017, Bishop Tyson founded the Nehemiah Initiative, offering African American churches in Seattle’s Central District alternatives to succumbing to gentrification.
Minister Cynthia Bynum, MBA, MDIV, is currently a member of the ministerial team at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. She has earned a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and she is preparing to pursue a Doctor of Ministry at Howard University in the spring of 2023. Cynthia is a nonprofit leader for the Justice Alliance for Greater Georgia and is committed to social justice advocacy and spiritual transformation for the beloved community through Jesus.
David is a serial entrepreneur and has been self-employed since he was 19. David was incarcerated for 46 months in Washington State prison after a 7-year legal battle that ended with an Alford Plea (no-contest). This is where he wrote the initial business plan for Pop Gourmet after seeing some fellow inmates make a popcorn concoction. Pop Gourmet was distributed in 27 countries, won multiple awards for innovation and was one of the fastest growing food companies in the market. At its peak 23% of Pop Gourmet employees were formerly incarcerated.
In 2017 David founded GOOD PLANeT Foods, a premium plant based cheese and food company. He serves on the Board of Pioneer Human Serices, Prison Scholar Fund and other Boards within the food industry. Changing the lives of those formerly incarcerated, reducing crime, and creating a safer community is David’s biggest passion.
Dr. Gilda Sheppard is an award-winning filmmaker who has screened her documentaries throughout the United States and internationally in Ghana, West Africa, at the Festival Afrique Cannes Film Festival, and in Germany at the International Black Film Festival in Berlin. Her documentaries include stories of resilience of Liberian women and children refugees in Ghana; three generations of Black families in an urban neighborhood; and a film ethnography of stories from folklore started by Zora Neale Hurston in Alabama's AfricaTown. For over a decade, Sheppard has taught sociology classes in Washington State prisons and is a co-founder and faculty for Freedom Education for Puget Sound (FEPPS) an organization offering college credit courses at Washington Corrections Center for Women. In 2020 Sheppard was the director, writer and executive producer of the nationally award winning documentary Since I Been Down. Since I Been Down has been accepted in over 15 festivals in USA and Canada. It has also inspired transformative justice legislation in Washington State.
Rabbi Olivier is a teacher of Jewish mysticism and its ancient meditation practices. He approaches Jewish tradition as a paradigm for spiritual awakening and a lens to foster Tikkun Olam: the healing of self, communities and world as interwoven sacred manifestations. He has served his Bet Alef community since 2005.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin is the Executive Director of the JCRC/AJC of Detroit. He was instrumental in creating The Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity which was established in partnership by the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity and Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC in 2018. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a Truman Fellow with an M. Phil in Medieval Arabic Thought from Oxford University.
Rabbi Burt Visotzky is Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies Emeritus at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. There he directs the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue. He also serves as Louis Stein Director of the Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies.
Rabbi Daniel Weiner believes passionately in building Judaism for the 21st century and in healing the world through social justice. Temple De Hirsch Sinai has grown to more than 5000 members and 1,600 families in two campuses in Seattle and Bellevue since he took charge in 2001.
Jim has served as a rabbi in the Seattle area since 1974. He is currently the rabbi of Bet Chaverim in south King County. He has worked for social justice along with his many friends in the Black and Jewish communities during that time. In 2022, he was honored for this communal leadership by the American Jewish Committee.
Rachel Nussbaum is the Founding Rabbi of the Kavana Cooperative, a pluralistic Jewish community in Seattle that has received national recognition for its innovative approach to rethinking the synagogue model. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Emergent Network. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Rachel holds degrees from Duke University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. For her, relationships lie at the heart of community-building and social change efforts.
Carl Livingston has been the head of the Political Science Department at Seattle Central College (SCC) for over thirty years. A graduate of Notre Dame Law School, Carl has served as adjunct Business Law professor at Seattle Pacific University’s School of Business. As senior pastor of Kingdom Christian Center for the past decade, Carl has been a community activist standing with other community leaders to advocate on behalf of people of color and the poor.
In 2019 at the age of 2019, Stephen Herrod became the youngest Pastor called to serve the Bethel Baptist Church, East in Detroit, MI. Rev. Stephen Herrod holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Finance from Eastern Michigan University; and Master of Divinity from Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. He is currently a MSW candidate at the University of Michigan with a concentration on community change. Rev. Stephen Herrod’s passion for Jewish/Black relations became a passion following his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2017. Since then, he has joined the collaborative work between blacks and jews to improve relations and collaboratively work towards a beloved community.
Tom Ewell served at Executive Director of the Maine Council of Churches for twenty years before retiring to Washington in 2006. His ministry as a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) includes initiatives of reconciliation and restorative justice practices with a particular focus of criminal justice reform, civil rights, and the prevention of deadly conflict. His ecumenical and interfaith work in Washington continues through the statewide Quaker lobby, Quaker Voice, and various other coalitions dealing with criminal justice.
On the uses of the terms “Blacks” and “Jews”
In this website, when we use the terms “Blacks” and “Jews” we mean the predominantly Christian American Black community and the multiracial American Jewish community. Black and Jewish are not mutually exclusive terms. Jews come in every hue. A significant percentage of the American Jews are Jews of Color. There are 150,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel. And depending on one’s definition, it could be said that more than half of population of Israel are Jews of Color. Thus, we were deliberately ambiguous in describing ourselves as “Building Black and Jewish Beloved Community,” reflecting the fact that one can be both Black and Jewish. At the same time, frequent use of long phrases can be cumbersome. Please understand that when we use shorter, less accurate descriptions like “Blacks and Jews”, it is because of the limitations of language, not out of insensitivity to the complexities of Black and Jewish identity.
My work with the multi-faith team has been some of the most inspiring I have done in my career. This is a committed group of people from so many walks of life joining together to pursue equity and justice for some of our most marginalized communities.