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Sat, 09.23.2000

Ayecha, a community for Jews of Color

The Ayecha Resource Organization is celebrated on this date. They were a global resource group for Jews of Color. Ayecha supported, strengthened, and advocated for Jews of Color and multi-racial families in the U.S.

Founded in 2000 by Yavilah McCoy, it was based in New York City and St. Louis. McCoy is an Orthodox, African-American Jewish educator, activist, publisher, and diversity consultant. Through her vision, Ayecha has developed educational awareness resources that address the needs of diverse Jews and assist Jewish organizations in building more aware, inclusive, and welcoming environments for “multi-dimensional” Jewish identity.

Demographics of the Jewish community show that through adoption, conversion, intermarriage, and immigration, the American Jewish population is growing increasingly diverse. Jews of diverse backgrounds must not only contend with challenging issues facing the entire Jewish population, but their own unique cultural, racial, and socio-economic challenges as well. The Institute for Jewish and Community Research estimates that 6.5-10% of American Jews are ethnic minorities (Asian, Latino or African American). The National Jewish Population Study posits that over 5% of Jewish families with children have at least 1 adopted child, and that 52% of Jews intermarry.

Additionally, Ayecha‘s projects are a result of information gathered through a sampling of 150 racially and culturally diverse Jews across the United States. Over a two-year period, Ayecha hosted various discussions to explore the potential for recognizable change in the experiences of diverse Jews in organized Jewish communal settings.

These discussions produced three areas of Ayecha’s programming: “Diversity in Spirituality”- resources to address feelings among diverse Jews that Jewish spiritual leaders are not adequately prepared to assist them and their communities in navigating and creating space for diverse Jewish identity in the synagogue. “Diversity in Building Community”- resources for Jewish educators and professionals to address feelings among diverse Jews that their voices and identities are not included in the type of programs and outreach services being offered by their local Jewish communities, and “Diversity in Jewish Identity”- social/educational events that address needs expressed among diverse Jews for educational programs that cater to a wide variety of Jewry and offer networking opportunities for diverse Jews to come together and contradict feelings of being “the only one” in larger communal settings.

Ayecha’s programming reached many diverse Jews and their families, living in Jewish communities across the United States, in Canada, England and in Israel. The “living stories” provided by the individuals and families that seek out Ayecha’s resources, offer a compelling reason for all Jewish individuals to reflect upon the changing face of American Jewry and to examine our communal acceptance and support of Jewish Diversity.

Through their projects and programs, Ayecha sought to dispel harmful assumptions and negative stereotypes that provide rigorous challenges to the successful integration of ALL Jews into the various social settings, neighborhoods, synagogues and educational institutions that comprise our national Jewish community. Ayecha ended operating in 2008.

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