National Shabbaton for Jews of color held last weekend

Co-organizer Harriette Wimms (courtesy)
Harriette Wimms heads the Jews of Color Mishpacha Project and organized the Jewish People of Color National Shabbaton that takes place online May 14-16, 2021. (Courtesy of Wimms)

For the past five months, Harriette Wimms has worked late into the night, connecting with organizations from all over and having dozens of conversations in preparation for a national Shabbaton for Jews of color.

Her work paid off this past weekend, when Jews from around the world — including Israel, Uganda and Ethiopia — logged on to the three-day event, which featured services, learning sessions and creative programming.

Some of the programs that took place as part of the Shabbaton included a Kabbalat Shabbat service; a Kaddish for George Floyd and others killed by gun violence, police brutality and oppression; and an open mic.

“I had just wanted there to be a space where people could feel like they were gathered together in family,” said Wimms, lead organizer of the Shabbaton and a member of Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl. “And that’s what I kept hearing from people, is they’ve waited for this.”

A number of Baltimore organizations played a role in the national Shabbaton. They included The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, the JCC of Greater Baltimore, The Macks Center for Jewish Education, Pearlstone Center, Hinenu, The Gordon Center and the Jewish Museum of Maryland, which were among the dozens of organizations serving as contributors, supporters and in other roles.

There were also Baltimore-area residents who led or facilitated programs or helped out behind the scenes, in addition to Wimms.

One of those Baltimoreans was Andy Miller, who ran a program for white Jewish allies with Tracie Guy-Decker and served as a Zoom host.

“Jews of Color are not just waiting for the rest of us to figure this out,” said Miller, chair of the social justice advocacy committee for Chizuk Amuno Congregation, in an email. “They are doing what Jews have always done throughout our history, creating institutions and communities for Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Hasadim, and this weekend was an opportunity to come together in celebration from all over the country and from other parts of the world. There was tremendous creativity, great emotion, beauty, spiritual sustenance and serious Torah learning at this event.”

The Shabbaton was part of Jews of Color Mishpacha Project initiative.

Some other upcoming programs include an outside art installation at the Jewish Museum of Maryland focusing on the JOC Mishpacha Project and a JOC retreat in the fall, Wimms said.

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