On MLK weekend this year, join UJA and scholars from Ammud: The Jews of Color Torah Academy and the Shalom Hartman Institute for an evening of learning to explore when we’ve felt at home, when we haven’t, and what it will take for everyone in America to feel like they belong.
Our renowned educators and thought leaders will illuminate the contemporary struggle for racial justice and universal belonging. Together, we’ll help build a better world for all by raising awareness of what we can do to help foster a community of acceptance and help honor Dr. King’s indelible legacy.
Want to back up your learning with another kind of action? Take advantage of all-day opportunities — both in-person and virtual — to volunteer and make a difference on MLK Day, Monday, January 17.
Learning Program Schedule:
5:00 – 5:30 pm: Opening Remarks
5:30 – 6:30 pm: Choose Your Workshop
6:30 – 7:30 pm: Panel Discussion
Choose Your Workshop
These sessions will run concurrently, and directions to access all elective workshops will be provided to you during the program opening.
For the best virtual experience, please make sure that you have downloaded the latest version of Zoom, 5.9, which you can find here.
Lessons from Charlottesville 2017 – Today
Educator: Dahlia Lithwick
Dahlia Lithwick is a legal journalist who lived in Charlottesville during the white supremacist marches of 2017 and covered the civil rights litigation against 24 Nazi and white supremacist organizers in November of 2021. Her reflections on the significance of the Unite the Right rally, the possibility of bringing Nazis to justice in the courts, and the lessons we can derive about American Jewry in the four intervening years between torchlight marches and million-dollar jury verdict suggest that Charlottesville was never just about one city or one narrative.
“A Stranger and A Resident Am I Among You”: Jewish Otherness and Belonging in America
Educator: Rivka Press Schwartz
We often tell an American Jewish story that begins with otherness – as immigrants, as refugees – and ends with Jewish "making it," success, and belonging. This story captures some important truths about the American Jewish experience, even as it skips over others. This talk will explore American Jews' changing understanding of our place in American life, our race and class position, and our relationship to other minority groups over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Revisiting the Sources: Writings on Civil Rights from Heschel to Martin Luther King Jr.
Educator: Tema Smith
For many leaders of the civil rights movement, the imperative to work toward equal rights was a call rooted deeply in religious tradition — or in other cases, in opposition to it. This session will look at the words of some of the era’s prominent voices from the Black and Jewish communities. We’ll explore how they saw their work — in many cases drawing inspiration from religious text, and in other cases, standing in opposition to religious institutions and traditions. Often at issue are questions of place: what does it mean to live in America? How does one live alongside the people who have been your oppressor? And what of the people who haven’t shared that experience on this land? Join Tema Smith for a look at texts from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others that came to define an era.
Building Dr. King's Beloved Community Now
Educator: Evan Traylor
In his activism and leadership, Dr. King spoke boldly about the "Beloved Community,” a vision for a global society filled with love and justice for all people. What could the Beloved Community look like in the 21st century? How would implementing the principles of the Beloved Community change our own Jewish communities? As we honor Dr. King’s legacy together, we’ll explore the ideas and ideals of the Beloved Community and how to bring them into our own lives today.
Panel Discussion: Let’s Build Belonging: A Conversation Moderated by Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein
Panelists: Dr. Mijal Bitton, Nate Looney, and Maayan Zik
Join us for an insightful discussion featuring Jews of Color who are professionals that strive to build communities of belonging. They’ll discuss the pathways towards belonging, the feeling of being at home within a community, and the challenges of living in a diverse society. They will reflect on their successes and challenges and share their opinions on what still needs to change for a better future where every individual feels like they belong.
Dr. Mijal Bitton is the rosh kehilla (communal leader) and co-founder of the Downtown Minyan in New York City. She received a BA from Yeshiva University and earned her doctorate from New York University, where she conducted an ethnographic study of a Syrian Jewish community with a focus on developing the field of contemporary Sephardic studies in America. She is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship.
In 2018, Mijal was selected for inclusion in New York Jewish Week’s “36 under 36” in She lives in Manhattan with her husband Sion and their two children.
Ginna Green previously served as the chief strategy officer of Bend the Arc, where she oversaw the work of the advocacy and electoral, communications, and organizing teams, bringing a Jewish voice to the fight for social justice in the United States.
Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate and has been writing their “Supreme Court Dispatches” and “Jurisprudence” columns since 1999. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and Commentary, among other places. She is host of Amicus, Slate’s award-winning biweekly podcast about the law and the Supreme Court. Dahlia earned her B.A. in English from Yale University and her J.D. from Stanford University. She is currently working on a new book, Lady Justice, for Penguin Press.
Nate Looney is an American Jewish University alum, agricultural entrepreneur, diversity strategist, and US Army veteran. He was part of rescue efforts during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and deployed to Iraq in 2008. Nate is a Wexner Field Fellow, a Bend the Arc Jeremiah alum, and a Selah JOC Cohort alum. Nate is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Jewish community in addition to sustainability and innovation in agriculture. He is a board member of the Jewish Multiracial Network, Urban Adamah, and JQ International. He speaks publicly about intersectionality and diversity across multiple sectors. When not working, Nate can be found on the water, sailing, deep-sea fishing, or bodysurfing.
Rabbi Isaiah Joseph Rothstein grew up in a mixed-race family in the ultra-orthodox community of Monsey, New York. He most recently served as rabbi-in-residence at Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability. He is the co-founder of the Jewish Youth Climate Movement and Kamochah, a community for Black Orthodox Jews. He served as spiritual leader at Carmel Academy in Greenwich, Connecticut, and as youth director at the Young Israel of Stamford. He attended Kushner Yeshiva High School, studied in Israel for two years, and attended Binghamton University, followed by rabbinic ordination and his master’s in social work from Yeshiva University. Isaiah is a member of the Schusterman Foundation’s ROI Fellowship and was listed as one of The Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36.” When he is not working to keep the world safe for democracy, Isaiah is writing a musical about Queen Esther.
Dr. Rivka Schwartz has spent more than 15 years in the field of Jewish secondary and post-secondary education. She currently serves as associate principal, General Studies at SAR High School in the Bronx, New York. She earned a Ph.D. in history of science from Princeton University, writing her dissertation about the cultural history of the Manhattan Project. She lectures widely on issues of contemporary importance in the Orthodox community. Rivka lives in Washington Heights, New York, with her family.
Tema Smith is a diversity advocate, writer, and Jewish community builder. At 18Doors, she helps run an organization that empowers people in interfaith relationships to engage in Jewish life and make Jewish choices, and which encourages Jewish communities to welcome them. This comes after seven years as a synagogue professional, most recently as the director of community engagement at Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto’s oldest synagogue. Tema is also a contributing columnist at The Forward whose writing has been published in My Jewish Learning, The Globe and Mail, and the Canadian Jewish News. Tema is dedicated to building a meaningful and inclusive Jewish community through research, training, writing, and relational engagement work.
Evan Traylor (he/him) is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion and a Jewish community builder, educator, activist, and writer. He is a Wexner Graduate fellow and a Ko’ach fellow, and currently serves on the leadership team of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, the board of Encounter, and the Commission on Social Action of the Religious Action Center. Prior to rabbinical school, Evan worked at the Union for Reform Judaism for several years creating new initiatives in college and young adult engagement. Originally from Oklahoma City, he graduated from the University of Kansas studying political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies. Evan is an alum of Kansas Hillel, URJ Kutz Camp, URJ Greene Family Camp, and served as North American President of NFTY. He lives in New York City with his fiancé and their tiny dog, Ruby Nakia.
Maayan Zik is an Orthodox Jewish Jamaican-American, social activist, and mother. She co-founded organizations Kamochah and Ker a Velt, which further her work in social justice and racial equity amongst the Jewish and Black communities of Crown Heights and the broader Orthodox Jewish community. She has been featured in Vogue Magazine, the Washington Post, The Forward, The Jewish Press, and more. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.