cover & inside cover of self-portrait book

Last week for me began in Atlanta at a Full Disclosure Facilitator training led by Barbara Rosenblit and Sheila Miller who were sharing their process of artistic storytelling as a way to create connection, honor community, and preserve history. This collaborative experience with Jewish Women’s Archive’s Story Aperture application was rich and engaging. The three-day training gave me the gift of a full day of creative process which is precious, even for someone who is constantly involved in creative work. I was excited to meet two Jewish Women’s Archive colleagues, CEO Judith Rosenbaum and Program Director Betsy More, for the first time in-person! And, this was also a rare moment at an event not specifically designated for Jewish people of color where, among ten amazing participants, I had the pleasure of spending time with Victoria Raggs of Atlanta Jews of Color Council and Shula Mola, a Beit Israel scholar preserving the histories of Ethiopian Jews in Israel from the historic Jewish village of Enkash.

Victoria Raggs, Erica Riddick, Shula Mola (l-r)

The word pentimento, which Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines as “a reappearance in a painting of an original drawn or painted element which was eventually painted over by the artist” was introduced through the title of the presenters’ book, Pentimento-Revealing Women’s Stories. The concept of pentimento makes me think of how Jewish people of color have been obscured from a narrative that continues to be white-washed so pervasively it has colored the imaginations of people of color. I appreciate having another tool in my toolbox to support the endeavor of revealing stories that have always been there.

I was intrigued when I first received the list of materials to bring with me to the training… five self-portraits of me with encouragement for playful experiment (perhaps my two favorite words in succession), words that speak to a personal philosophy, three-dimensional items to embellish the piece, and an object to introduce myself. Many women continued their introductions into their self-portrait piece which was a wood box in the shape of a book with a hinged lid.  My project followed suit in a way. I had introduced myself through my love of libraries, noting a particular fondness for dictionaries. The photograph I selected for the lid was me holding my favorite dictionary, a gorgeous pale blue bound embossed Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language circa 1950s. In a moment of symbiotic presence, Sheila brought along a 1938 dictionary for participants to use to add meaning. My cover materialized with an energy of its own… My book box was embellished with beloved quotes from Octavia Butler, Audre Lorde, Michael W. Twitty, and more; small rocks; and butterflies.  The interior of the box includes a cartographical history, linking my love of books and maps through a geographically imprint.

One of the best parts of the experience was, after sharing and listening to other participants as they constructed their projects, we witnessed the completed (or in-process) work and what the artist chose to share about the piece with those assembled. I am a performer who understands the importance of having an audience to receive you.  As part of the current Jewish Studio Project, Creative Facilitating Training cohort, I am understanding deeper nuances of how generative being a witness to someone’s creative practice can be. I am giddy at the interplay between the artistic spaces I inhabit and the role creativity plays in everything I do, and all that I am.

My self-portrait book remains untitled and still needs an artist statement, but I am excited to share and facilitate this practice. Upcoming events will offer ripe opportunities to share this tool with artists, historians, and storytellers of all ages. This year the theme of the Jews of Color Mishpacha Project, JoCISM Shabbaton over June 16-18 is “We Are Family”, which will be immediately followed by a LGBTQI Juneteenth celebration of “Collecting Our Stories”, and immediately preceded by the launch of the Black Jewish Liberation Collective, Dismantling Racism From the Inside Out, a joint organizer mussar va’ad. Jews of Color Sanctuary is collaborating with Edot and Kol Or, the Jews of Color Caucus of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, in the development of a Midwest mussar va’ad–one of many ways to bring national initiatives home to Cincinnati after transporting a taste of the Midwest to the world.


I am in the beginning moments of reflecting back on what I want to take with me into Shabbat and what I wish to leave behind as I close my week.  I smile as I recall how my week started with JoC Sanctuary Ritual Studio.  A program called Mezuzah Bedazzle.  Creation is a beautiful and powerful thing.  Perhaps that is why we start there in our annual reading of Torah.  The act of making can also calm us as it gives us something to do with our hands, and perhaps a way to make sense inside our minds.  Somewhere along our journey into adulthood, many give up the simple joy of making for making’s sake.  Witnessing this tendency interrupted is a precious moment during a session of Mezuzah Bedazzle­–seeing adults allowing themselves to play.  When children attend, they take to the task easily.  Adults often need more time, but always arrive.  And, in the midst of joyful gathering and separating and imagining creation making with intention we studied about mezuzot, and had conversations with each other–learning, listening, laughing…  This is what I’m bringing in to spark Shabbat!

In the way that we are made in the image of God, and perhaps God also holds parts of us, may we reflect aspects of our children as we mold them into adults.  In a world filled with too much sorrow may we give ourselves the gift of choosing simple joys all around us, even if we have to mimic our children until we find our way.  May we choose to embrace ritual in ways that are meaningful for our lives and relish opportunities to listen and learn from the wisdom of every person, seeing God reflected in each face.  May our spiritual sparkle bedazzle our world.


Image from

Last Sunday I had the honor of facilitating the opening of the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network, Seven Steps Mikveh Guide Training. Thirty-one Jewish people of color across four countries and in fourteen USA states registered for this eight-week experience funded by Jews of Color Initiative. Some participants are already guides and others live outside the thirty-six international Rising Tide Network mikveh locations or that the mikvaot that do exist where they are feel inaccessible. Across the diversity of spiritual practice, yearning for accessible, holistic, and celebratory Jewish learning was clear.

The universal human relationship with water is revered in many cultures for connection, purification, cleansing, transition & wisdom. During ritual immersions, physical barriers are removed between our body and the water. This series is a moment for attendees to remove mental or spiritual barriers from past experiences and deepen their relationship with Judaism and this ancient tradition. The communities where guides live can continue to support removing barriers as you welcome and celebrate these “mikveh guides as wisdom-holders and educators” attracted to this learning because they are already vibrant participants in their Jewish communities.

Program design development and implementation planning was a big job. For this community that means the world to me, it was important to create a space where every individual could bring the full-fabulousness of their beautiful selves completely into the space and learn from the course, each other, and themselves. It was worth it to read feedback confirming that 100% of participants felt a sense of belonging, 100% would recommend the program to a friend, and 92% learned something new. What I didn’t expect was how much this work for others would also feed my soul. I had the opportunity to create an opening ritual and prayer which feels bigger than the specific moment it was created for. May its words nourish our souls in ritual moments we need to hold us…

May we remember that the waters of Gan Eden still flow through our bodies and the earth,

the four rivers of Pishon, Gihon, Hidekel, and Perat.

May we allow those ancient waters to connect us to our ancestors and our first home,

lands of gold and precious resource, lands of Ethiopia, lands of Assyria.

May we use our knowledge to protect the source and follow the water to life,

with gratitude for the waters that hold us and the heavens that give us breath.

-erica riddick

Ritual Studio

Join Jews of Color Sanctuary on 1st Sundays in 2023 for an interactive Ritual Studio experience centering Jewish people of color, skills for creating Jewish ritual, and a sprinkling of art and Torah.

Jewish people of color can register for this affinity space for all levels of art and text study experience.  Half the sessions are virtual to allow cross-pollination community for Jewish people of color around the world.  Greater Cincinnati Jewish people of color are welcome to register for all four sessions.  Participants who attend both in-person or both virtual sessions and participate in the studio by sharing images of their work are eligible for artist stipends of between $15-30.

Regitration link:

Contact erica at with RITUAL STUDIO as the Subject for more information.

This event is supported generously throughts ArtsWave.


The last session of the Let Justice Well Up text study series on December 11 closed out the Jews of Color Sanctuary program 2022 calendar. Feedback from the series last January led to the development of a dynamic opportunity to study elements of our modern lives through Torah texts centered around water.

It is a rare gift to be in an affinity space of women of color. Our conversations reflected the incredible range of insight and experience. ללמד lilmod holds both learn and teach. Any teacher will tell you how much they learn much from students. So too, Judaism holds moments of teaching made more powerful as we learn from each other.

There are special opportunities lot brewing for 2023. I look forward to continuing the journey with you, both nationally and locally.

joyful shabbat

From left, participants in the JOC Mishpacha “We Are Family” JOCSM Shabbaton: Maetal Gerson, Avodah Jewish Service Corps Chicago, and Kol Or of JCUA; Denise Dautoff, Jewtina y Co.; Riki Robinson, Jews of Color Initiative; Ari Monts (kneeling); Mackenzie Martinez, Avodah Jewish Service Corps, San Diego; Sabrina Sojourner, co-founding director, KHAZBAR; Erica Riddick, Jews of Color Sanctuary; Deitra Reiser, founder, Transform for Equity; Kiyomi Kowalski, co-founder, Jewbian Princess; and Ramona Tenorio, Tiyuv Initiative.

I feel blessed to be connected with a national network of Jews of color (JoC) and lucky to have experienced JoC majority spaces, even if sparsely. It is joyful to feel community in a way that you know deep in your bones includes you. The JoC Mishpacha Project JoCISM Shabbaton was definitely that kind of event. It was an opportunity to deepen existing relationships and create new ones. I was struck by the harmonies we made together, both in song and the ways we blended needs and customs. It was also a beautiful expression of the crucial role allies play, as family, as friends, as organizations, as symbiotic supporters of this work to create affinity spaces that strengthen so much more than just the Jewish people of color present, but returns with them into their home communities… whether that is across the country or down the street. The weekend reminded me of the importance of the work of JoC Sanctuary and the ability to intentionally create the spaces we need for ourselves.

Rising Tide

Erica Riddick of Jews of Color Sanctuary will be a featured speaker of the Co-Creating Rituals Panel at the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network virtual 2022 Gathering on May 9 through 10. Rising Tides mission is to inspire, strengthen and support communities that embrace an open, inclusive and welcoming approach to ritual immersion as a way to mark life transitions, believing that providing for the spiritual needs of the entire spectrum of Jewish people will help create a more vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive community for everyone. The gathering is an opportunity for individuals and groups to come together to learn from and grow this movement.


Jews of Color Sanctuary is delighted to partner with Ish to create a cultural night you will never forget!

Join me at del-ish-us, a Celebration of Mimouna on Saturday, April 30! Mimouna is a celebration, traditionally held by North African Jews from Morocco & the Maghreb, to celebrate the end of Passover. Come see the Krohn Conservatory Butterfly Show at night, with some amazing food & wine! A joyous community gathering, we’ll break bread, eat sweets, and enjoy traditional culture, together. Please join me and get your tickets today at

Let justice well up

12:30-2pm EST Sunday March 6, 2022

Let Justice Well Up Torah Study Series for Jewish Women of Color

Join this text study affinity space by and for Jewish women who also hold intersectional identities as people of color.  The intention is to create a space where we can welcome each other as siblings while also honoring the wealth of diversity within Jews of Color spaces.  There will be opportunities to suggest text study ideas and room to express your Torah. The series is on a sliding scale of $0-36 for seven sessions which can be attended individually or collectively. No prior text study experience is required.

We will open our study will the sacrifice of Yiftach’s Daughter, exploring the offered themes of sacrifice and ritual through our unique experiences as people of color.  We’ll use the framework of our study to lead us into creating Jewish ritual for the moments of our lives.

Session Dates: March 6 & 20, April 3 & 10, May 1, 15 & 29

Let Justice Well Up is hosted by Mayyim Hayyim and generously funded by the Miriam Fund.

Mourning the Temple

I am a self proclaimed word nerd who loves lexicon and has a dictionary in every room.  How language evolves over time and where words and expressions come from is fascinating, especially when shifting context results in differences between modern over original usage.

Commemorating the destruction of the temple, always makes me think of the phrase the body is a temple.  I never knew the phrase’s origin, but like the spiritual imagery that aligns with my ideologies of feeding body and soul and getting out what you put in.  While a quick search attributes the phrasing to Christian liturgy, Judaism also expresses honoring the body in many ways.  Notably, in expressing daily gratitude for the functions of our body and allowing breaking halacha in order to preserve life.  So, during Tisha B’Av, my mourning extends to the destruction of black bodies, which feels like a paradox of prayers like Elohai Neshama and the poetry of Psalm 139.

Yet, there is a lot of beauty in the modern Judaism born from the ashes of the temple, decentralized into each of our families and transferring the holy of holies into our hearts, like a turtle, who is never without it’s home.  Turtles are evoked whenever I see a child hide under their mother’s skirts or inside their own blanket.  I hold this ability to go into my own turtle house when and where, ever I need to.  I want to acknowledge and love the broken parts of myself, whether physical, mental, spiritual or a combination of all three.  To somehow transition from destruction as damage, different from deconstruction.  Re-turning shards in-to a mosaic of beauty.

The idea of mourning AND celebrating is familiar in how funerals can be joyful in their reunion among the living as we mourn the dead.  On this Tisha B’Av, after the fires ignited from the destruction of black bodies across the United States of America, the mingling of mourning and joy is poignant.  Jews dream of rebuilding the temple, but what if each of us were the stones, simultaneously unique yet interdependent with every other stone, in different but important ways?  What if the temple we rebuilt was the world?

I know this may come across as terribly naïve, ignorant of history and completely impossible… but what if it’s not?  What if it’s as easy as a decision?  Maybe the hard part is choosing to do it every day.  As prayer can feel like a chore that detracts from more important things for some and for others is habit from repetition, the work of building the temple is not done when construction is complete.  Building maintenance is a lifelong necessity, that, by habit, can be normal, easy and regular, but if ignored and resisted, one day becomes a crisis, potentially a critical collapse.

Architecture feels an apt language for considering the relevance today of the destruction of 2 temples yesterday, but Torah wants us to explore whatever analogy resonates within, that honors our uniqueness and interdependence.  Find your voice and your light and share it with the world.  Today, we mourn not only the destruction of the temple, but say goodbye to civil justice icon John Lewis, who could have understandably focused on living out his life, but chose to offer one last bit of Torah through the words of Martin Luther King Jr, that “we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice” and in John’s own words, that “ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America” and “answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions”.

The phrase “I can’t breathe” has come to mean more than it’s words, perhaps because Elohai Neshama reminds us that our soul and breath are united.  May we redeem the soul of America through the breath of our unique voice, flowing from the temple of humanity to God and back again, breathing as one.