Jared Jackson works tirelessly. As the founder and executive director of Jews in ALL Hues (JIAH)—one of the only independent Jewish social justice organizations founded by a biracial, multi-heritage, Jew of Colour—the work being done is vital.
Jackson, a well-known Jewish diversity leader and consultant works to build a world where intersectional diversity and dignity are normative.
Born in Philadelphia, Jackson is an alum of the Selah leadership program through Bend The Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. He holds a certificate of nonprofit management from LaSalle University and was named one of the “Jews That Will Change the World” by periodical Ma’ariv.
JIAH provides consultations and workshops in Jewish cultural, institutional, and religious contexts. Responding to Bias (working towards liberation) Workshop gives participants a framework for racial and social justice. Another workshop, The Intersection of Racism, Judaism, and White Supremacy, explores unpacking the intersection of race, Judaism, white supremacy, and its impact.
I spoke with Jackson on why he founded JIAH, how it’s been received by the Jewish community, and what he’s most proud of to date.
Tell me about how JIAH was founded.
JIAH was first a project in 2008-2009 and the founding of the organization was in 2013. The ethos came when I reached a time in my life where my nieces and nephews were going through the same identity struggles and lack of acceptance that my sisters and I faced. It wasn’t as intense for them, but when you’re a little kid everything is intense. I looked around aas I was starting my professional life in the Jewish community and everything came to a head. At the time I was also on a leadership trip with ROI Community (an international network of over 1,300 Jewish activists, entrepreneurs and innovators in their 20s and 30s fostering positive social change globally). Some of the people on the trip also had similar struggles to what I was facing: leading in Jewish communities and still not being accepted by these communities. One time, I was leading an event and someone came in and said they were looking for Jared, the leader of the event. When I said, “I’m Jared,” he responded, “No I’m looking for the Jewish one.” I wasn’t even seen as a peer. That was very telling. The racism I experienced as a kid in various ways had been passed on to my generation and I was still living in it.
Was that the moment you then decided to create JIAH?
I was sitting on a rock in a valley doing meditation in Israel and knew something needed to happen because this is ridiculous. That was the moment. At the time there was nothing in the U.S. that was founded and led by Jews of Colour. There were organizations from interfaith families but even that was sparsely sponsored. The term Jews of Colour was floating around but not mainstream yet. Oftentimes, those doing work for Jews of Colour or mixed families were founded by white Jewish moms or white moms who have adopted children of colour. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s different leading something from your identity versus the identity of your child.
How has the organization developed since 2013?
We started as a roaming conference and in 2013 it was just me running the show. I became full-time last year. Over the past three years our team has grown a great deal, but I’m the only full-time staff member. Funding is rather limited. There is plenty of funding out there if it’s performative work or if you want to be a gatekeeper. Funding primarily comes from the consulting work we do. We take that money and reinvest it in Jews of Colour and multi-heritage Jews. We also take some of our funding to help Jews in need.
Since you founded JIAH what have been the biggest surprises and biggest challenges of running it and doing this advocacy work?
What’s surprising is Jews of Colour and multi-heritage Jews in their late teens and early 20s have reached out to us and said they have been watching us for a long time. They say they’re big fans of what we do and want to help out. I’m getting chills right now because it touches the heart. It’s important that as children, they knew there were people fighting on their behalf. That acknowledgement from them is everything. The more work we do, the more people we can connect with to help them start their own groups and organizations. Our leadership model is not being a one-stop-shop. There isn’t just one synagogue or one JCC. There shouldn’t just be one Jews of Colour organization.
A challenge we’ve faced has been this pressure to consolidate or have Jews in ALL Hues be run under the auspices of a white organization. Potential donors say things like, “the only way racial justice will be accomplished is if a white person was at the helm.” For those people who believe they need a white person at the helm or someone who is respectable enough to be in the room with them but under the thumb of someone else, that’s not building trust. If we want a vibrant Jewish community it doesn’t mean everyone will get along. Different identities don’t need to act or speak as you do to be respected. As Jews of Colour we can bring everything. We need our own spaces and they should be funded without questions asked.
Has the Jewish community been receptive to your work?
We’re still in conversation with some of the same people since we began in 2008. They had their own awakenings through our workshops or conversations and are much more receptive to the fact that we live in a white supremacist country. Being Jewish doesn’t take away from anyone’s contributions to white supremacy. It’s been really hard to get to that point. There’s been a lot of strife and pain. Tons of people have done racial justice work from a saviour point of view; so saying I showed up to this rally, or showed up to this learning event, means I’m on the same level as my heroes. No, that’s not the case. We should seek to surpass our heroes. I want to do more than my heroes while acknowledging we’re standing on their shoulders. If we don’t strive to do much more we have failed.
What are you proudest of with JIAH?
The work that we have done and the connections we have made have saved lives. It should be a point of pride and reward, but on the other hand I’m grateful people have trusted us to connect them with other folks to make them feel more connected to the community, or to get the help they need. I’m proud of the fact that people have come to us as the trusted source for education and direction, to help guide our greater Jewish family towards actual justice.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Header image design by Clarrie Feinstein.
Clarrie Feinstein is a journalist based in Toronto where she is currently a reporter for Toronto Star. She previously was a reporter for Metroland Media where she covered education in Peel Region. Her other work can be seen in Daily Hive, Business Insider, Salon, and Bedford + Bowery. Clarrie earned her M.A. in journalism from New York University.