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The Jewish Learning Organization Inspiring Jews of Color to Study Together

July 28, 2020

“Ammud is a space for Jewish education by Jewish people of color for Jewish people of color,” says Arielle Korman, the Co-Executive Director of a NYC-based Jewish educational and skill-building organization. 

Born out of Korman’s vision to teach a Jewish learning class for other Jews of color (JOCs) and Co-Executive Director Yehudah Webster’s suggestion to create an on-going group, Ammud hosts seminar classes out of New York University’s Bronfman Center and on Zoom for out-of-state participants. 

Korman, a New York City native, explained that Jewish education has long been exclusive of race and class marginalized people. Therefore, she and Webster decided to build an organization free from prejudice or the questioning of one’s identity. 

“We really started to think beyond what we could teach and really how to hire Jews of color to teach classes for Jews of color.” 

Now, Ammud offers an array of Jewish textual, language, and culturally themed sessions, such as “Truth-telling Prophecy and the Prophetic Voice in JOC Activism” by Dimensions CEO and JOCI grantee recipient Yavilah McCoy. Ammud’s chavruta-style sessions serve nearly 230 members, with between 15 to 45 participants in each course. 

Korman told JOCI that Ammud prioritizes Jewish learning and leadership training without pressuring participants to be on the frontlines of fighting racism in the Jewish community. 

“Our hope is that ultimately we want to be empowering JOCs to be in positions of leadership to whatever extent they want,” Korman stated. “Not everyone who comes to our programs has to be ready to teach white Jews, but that is an option if people want to get that kind of skill-learning.” 

Furthermore, Ammud’s educational approach seeks to uplift Jewish learning and community building amongst JOCs, and de-center tokenization. Additionally, Korman noted that Ammud strives to be an environment for JOCs to exist, study Jewish texts, and learn from those who reflect and respect their identities. 

In order sustain a thriving Jewish educational community, Ammud has used a JOCI-distributed grant to compensate their teaching staff for leading and facilitating learning sessions. 

“Funding for Ammud allows us to pay our teachers, which is so key. We do have a volunteer board at Ammud, but we are not trying to be another organization that relies on volunteer labor to function,” says Korman. “We really believe in honoring the work our teachers, and people who work at Ammud, do.” 

Additionally, Ammud has used the grant to address food insecurity and supply participants with dinner during each learning session. 

“When you are running a program for people who have been historically disenfranchised, it could really a make difference if there is dinner or not. We took that very seriously.” 

In addition to receiving grants, Korman credits Ammud’s ability to provide JOCs with a safe and accepting educational environment to legacies of JOCs who have tirelessly organized resources and community together. 

“I know that nothing Yehudah or I did would have been possible without decades of JOCs being in institutions and pushing for that possibility. We have elders looking out for us.”