We talked with Lindsey Newman, New York regional director of Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), a nonprofit supported by UJA. The organization aims to cultivate thought leaders that represent racial diversity across the Jewish spectrum, connect leaders to each other, and act as a bridge to institutional Jewish life. Lindsey oversees Be’chol Lashon’s leadership network and student leadership network. She was a fellow at the Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership.
(Q) You’re very open about your own story. Could you share it in a nutshell?
(A) Mine is a very typical American Jewish story — Hebrew school, camp, synagogue on the Upper West Side — but I happen to be black, mixed race, and adopted. As I grew older, I found that it was harder for me to feel welcome in many Jewish communities; I felt most comfortable in communities that reflected my own experiences. I got connected to Be’chol Lashon, and started to devote myself professionally to building Jewish communities that represent the true diversity that exists in the Jewish community.
(Q) What do you want us to know about your experience as a Jew of color?
(A) Jews of color are highly visible and also invisible. We might stand out in a typical crowd but our stories are not represented. The Jewish community is beginning to realize that the work of inclusion is on every one of us. In my role at Be’chol Lashon, I work on building community among Jews of color, but also with Jewish institutions so that they can be more authentically inclusive. We want all our stories represented as part of the full tapestry of Jewish life.
(Q) What’s the most surprising aspect of your work?
(A) Not surprising exactly, but I find it really interesting to work with different generations, talking about race and ethnicity, and how one constructs an identity. Young people especially, because they have access to technology and feel part of a connected global world, are really ready to talk about what it means to be part of a multicultural community.
(Q) How do you see your work breaking new ground?
(A) The Jewish community has always been this diverse, but there are new stories that have yet to be told. What I always say is the Jewish community is — and always has been — malleable enough to absorb all these stories.