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.


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.