Ilana Kaufman is a nationally recognized speaker, a Jewish community leader with twenty years of organizational development experience, and a published author of many articles, including, “What It’s Like to Be a Black, Gay, Professional Jew.” Keshet interviewed her about her work for the Jewish Community Relations Council and how the Jewish community can more fully embrace its diversity.
Can you describe your position at the JCRC?
We support the community in response to antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and advocate for the safety for every person of different identities in the community. When an issue arises in the Jewish community, we offer guidance based on our areas of expertise. We’re a consensus-based organization, and we work to really reflect the diversity of the Jewish community, and the diverse perspectives of the Jewish community.
We work on issues of “mutual and shared concerns,” spending time in partnership with other faith and racial and ethnic groups, advocating on issues that matter to all of us, like racial justice, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, access to safe abortion, controlling guns and gun violence, and sex trafficking. The major issues that are important to every community are important to our community and only by working together can we actually have justice in a strong way.
My day could be responding to an issue of antisemitism that’s come up in a local high school, and working with that high school student and their parents on how to be in a position where they can feel safe. The same day, I might be on a phone call with major Jewish organizations talking about the how they can work with non-Jewish organizations around themes of justice, and then I’ll be in a set of meetings where I’m working with community members on their desire to partner with other communities around relationship-building. One of the things we’re doing today is working with our local federation to host a lunch for community leaders around acts of solidarity and community as we are in a time of civic change.