Frequently Asked Questions
I’m not sure I identify as a Jew of Color. Can I join?
JOCTA is a space for Jews of Color by Jews of Color. At JOCTA, JOCs are defined as people who are considered non-white in the U.S. by nature of their generational lineage and identify as such (including Mizrahi and Sephardi people). We know that might feel confusing. Race is a totally invented thing that at the same time concretely affects people’s lives. If you identify as a JOC, you are welcome here as a Member. If you’re sitting in the messiness of trying to decide if you are (you object to the term, you are grappling with the concept of being “white-passing,” etc), we welcome you in this space in all that messiness. If you identify as white, you’re welcome to join the community as part of the Ally Circle, which grants you access to select JOCTA events and resources but not our regular programming. If you have further questions or are struggling with whether or not this space is for you, in particular if you identify as Mizrahi/Sephardi but are not sure about the “race’ part, feel free to reach out to Sivan Battat at email@example.com.
Doesn’t being Ashkenazi make me something other than white?
Firstly, many people who identify actively as JOCs are also Ashkenazi. “Ashkenazi” should not be used as a placeholder for “white,” just as “Sephardi” should never be used as a placeholder for “non-white.” However, many Jews, including a large percentage of Ashkenazi Jews, benefit from conditional whiteness. In addition, the majority of Jewish spaces in the U.S. already cater to Ashkenazi Jews and to an expectation of whiteness. It’s real that a person who is Ashkenazi and often viewed as white can have racialized experiences (i.e. being “outed” as Jewish based on curly hair). Race is not objective. It’s all contextual. The context JOCTA operates in is that some members of the American Jewish community are consistently more accepted in Jewish spaces than others and some face challenges of racism every day. We ask that in thinking about your own race and whether to join JOCTA as a Member (JOC) or Ally (non-JOC), you consider the relative privilege being Ashkenazi and having access to whiteness grants a person in the American Jewish context.
Is all the programming religious?
At JOCTA, we embrace a broad definition of the word ‘Torah’. ‘Torah’ includes many kinds of learning, some more traditionally seen as religious, some secular. We all benefit from wisdom that comes from many places. If you’re hungry for religious Jewish skill-building and education, this place is for you. If you are less excited by Hebrew and traditional Jewish learning and yet want to be learning Jewish material alongside other JOCs, this is also the place is for you.
Why Hebrew? What about other diasporic Jewish languages?
Ladino, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, and other Jewish diasporic languages are rich, beautiful, important, and worthy of a person’s full attention. We would love to be able to study all of them! And, Hebrew provides a powerful key to discovering Jewish traditions and texts spanning multiple continents and many points in history, long before the revival of Modern Hebrew in 19th and 20th centuries. We are so excited to offer Hebrew classes and skill-building opportunities this year at JOCTA. It’s a starting point. Let’s see how we grow from here!