This Juneteenth, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the significance of this historical moment and emphasize the importance of Black liberation in our ongoing pursuit of racial and economic justice.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Africans in the United States. It marks June 19, 1865, the day when news of the abolition of slavery reached Galveston, Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth is often retold as a Black liberation narrative; however, it is just as necessary to wrestle with the two years of freedom — on top of all the lifetimes — lost to folks who were enslaved and how their liberation was unjustly delayed.

Gif flashing between the words 'liberation - revelation - reparation - download the Juneteenth Haggadah''

Liberation is not a one-time event but rather a continuous process that includes everything from crafting just legislation, to how we interpersonally and politically structure our communities and friendships. It’s something that must be constantly revisited and reprioritized.

Juneteenth serves as an urgent invitation — a call to action — to collectively imagine and cultivate Black liberatory spaces in Jewish community. I imagine these spaces as ones where Black Jews like me, and my Blackness, are always already seen as facets of Jewish life and Jewish priority. Where, when I utter the words “I am a member of Jews For Racial & Economic Justice,” people do not interrogate my claim to Judaism and Jewish community. These forms of interrogation happen all too regularly to many Black Jews and Jews of Color, and this is a particular form of delaying liberation in our lifetime.

Supporting racial and economic justice is both a moral imperative, and a core principle of my and JFREJ’s Judaism. Pirkei Avot, a book of Jewish wisdom and guidance, teaches us that, “You are not required to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot 2:16). As Jews, we must pursue justice and care for the well-being of all people. That includes prioritizing Black liberation, because liberation of any person’s struggle is hinged upon the liberation of us all.

As we celebrate Juneteenth, let us take a moment to reflect on the progress we have made, acknowledge the work that lies ahead, and renew our commitment to fighting for racial and economic justice. Together, we can and must create more inclusive and equitable futures and spaces — one where every individual can not only have a home, funded education, fair pay but also political and spiritual homes primed for receiving people of all backgrounds. This is how we all can and will get free from oppression.

Next steps you can take:

  • Join JFREJ, the Avodah Institute for Social Change, and Black Jewish Liberation Collective on June 26th for “Allies in Action: Combating Antisemitism and Racism." Click here to RSVP.
  • Donate to the Black Jewish Liberation Collective (which was co-founded by some beloved JFREJ members!)
  • Download and read the Juneteenth Haggadah, which was authored in 2018 by members & friends of JFREJ's Jews of Color Caucus.
  • Fund JFREJ’s work to help us win a future with Black liberation, where we’re empowered to define safety for ourselves, right-wing police unions don’t set the agenda and starve the city for resources, and we all have what we need to thrive.

Wishing you and your loved ones a meaningful and reflective Juneteenth.

In solidarity,

Kofi Robinson (they/them)

JFREJ Digital Intern