What We Are Hearing From the Field re: DEIJ?

By Leading Edge, Jews of Color Initiative, JPRO Network, UpStart, Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, and Board Member Institute for Jewish Nonprofits

In our posting last week, we shared that many leaders are concerned that the progress that has been made in recent years to center conversations and initiatives around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) will begin to fall away or be deprioritized in this environment.

We’ve gotten a number of questions about this statement, along with requests for more detail. Therefore, this week we are focusing on what we’re hearing around diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in our community, with a particular focus on Jews of Color. The insights below have been gleaned from numerous conversations we’ve had with leaders across the sector.

Communal response to the pandemic 

  • While everyone is impacted in some way by COVID-19, it has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and by extension Jews of Color, both in terms of health outcomes and financial outcomes.
  • Some of the largest metro areas where US Jews live (in particular NYC, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago) are also the same areas with the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases and deaths. 
  • A DEIJ-informed lens would help us identify and understand the differential impact that the virus has been having on segments of our community and influence the communal response – and funding strategy – needed.
  • There is a need to double down on investing in Jews of Color in this moment and we are seeing the opposite.

Who counts and who is at the table?

  • The pandemic has shown that for many communal leaders, focusing on the core needs of the Jewish community does not include the needs of Jews of Color (JOC), despite JOCs being at least 12-15% of the community.
  • Jews of Color are often omitted from decision-making tables that impact the entire Jewish communal ecosystem. Sometimes these tables don’t use key demographic data to inform their thinking. There is an opportunity to engage Jews of Color to inform ideas.  
  • Many boards are not recruiting or adding new people, which means that efforts to diversify boards and also train them around DEIJ may continue to lag.

A question of priorities

  • We’ve heard that some funders are deprioritizing a commitment to DEIJ, deeming it non-essential in this moment.
  • Some leaders see DEIJ work as a program or activity that is nice to have but is not embedded into the DNA of their organizations. Therefore programs or initiatives that have been underway are in many cases being postponed or cut altogether in favor of what is seen as “essential” in this moment.  
  • We’ve heard of organizations that took out DEIJ goals – and we’ve also heard of organizations that re-committed to their DEIJ goals despite pressure to set them aside.


  • As organizations do the painful work of laying off employees, marginalized groups are often the hardest-hit and few organizations are utilizing a DEIJ framework to think about downsizing.  
  • Jews of Color who are on contracts, funded through grants, receiving stipends, and are in paid Fellowships are in many cases losing their roles, just as we as a community were beginning to develop pipelines and pathways for Jews of Color.

Non-Jews in our midst

  • Efforts to support employees who have been furloughed or laid off often omit non-Jews, including the multitude of non-Jewish People of Color who in many cases keep our communal infrastructure running. Employing a DEIJ lens would push us to be much more equitable and racially just than our current approach.
  • Some agencies are being pressured to direct relief dollars exclusively to Jewish clients even though the agencies typically serve a range of people regardless of religion.

Learning more

  • In April, the Jews of Color Initiative hosted a webinar on centering racial justice and Jews of Color during COVID-19
  • Chris Harrison recently wrote about how the COVID-19 Pandemic is Impacting Jews of Color
  • SSIR is hosting a webinar on overcoming racial bias in funding 

The pandemic is accelerating so many of the existing trends in our community and society. The DEIJ trends are no exception, and we know our community is committed to equal opportunities for everyone. 

Leading Edge, Gali Cooks
Jews of Color Initiative, Ilana Kaufman
JPRO Network, Ilana Aisen
Board Member Institute for Jewish Nonprofits, Alicia Oberman
Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, Abby Levine
UpStart, Aaron Katler