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The Jewish People of Color National Shabbaton has something for everyone

Harriette Wimms, founder of the Jews of Color Mishpacha Project.

The Jews of Color Mishpacha Project began when founder Dr. Harriette Wimms decided to create a space for JOCs to gather virtually during the pandemic. She reached out to fellow Jews of Color working toward the shared goal and received an overwhelming response.

“I reached out on Facebook and asked, “Who wants to create a Maryland/DC/Virginia Shabbaton?” Jews of Color from across the country said, “Yes!” Since then, we’ve been excitedly planning for months,” Wimms says.

On May 14-16, The Jews of Color Mishpacha Project is hosting their inaugural Jewish People of Color National Virtual Shabbaton: three days of programming dedicated to the unique, diverse, and vibrant JOC community across the country and around the world. The activities begin on Friday, May 14 at 3pm EST and last until early the afternoon of Sunday, May 16 leading up to the holiday of Shavuot, the celebration of Jews receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, or when the Hebrews became Jews. The slate of speakers features Ilana Kaufman, executive director of the Jews of Color Initiative, culinary historian and author Michael Twitty who will present a Black Eyed Pea hummus cooking demo, and Yoshi Silverstein, founder and executive director of Mitsui Collective.  A Baltimore based psychologist and student at the Kohent Hebrew Priestess Institute Wimms says she planned the Shabbaton with Jewish diversity in mind.

“There will be breakout sessions rooms for reconstructionist, reform, and even a davening room for Conservative and Orthodox Jews,” Wimms says. “It was important for me to include the religious diversity that exists within the JOC Community.”

More than 2,300 people are registered to attend the Shabbaton including Jews from countries like Uganda. There will be workshops for teens and a screening of a film following a young Jew of Color as she navigates coming out as a part of the LGBTQIA  community. There will also be programming for JOC allies, who are not of color, but find the work within the JOC community impactful.  Wimms says her experience as a Black Jewish woman at her home synagogue inspired her to contribute to the Jewish community.

“When I joined Hinenu, it was the first time as a Black woman that someone was encouraging me to show up as my full self,” Wimms says. “Usually, my employers were trying to reign me in or shrink my ideas, but at my synagogue I was being told ‘Yes, create that group, join the board, ‘Lead this board and start this project. We believe in you.’”

Now, as the founder of the Jews of Color Mishpacha Project, Wimms can pay it forward by offering programming by Jews of Color for Jews of Color. For that, she says, she is deeply grateful.

Register for the Shabbaton here.

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