In June 2020, just thirty-six days after the police murder of George Floyd, Sara Yacobi-Harris, Akilah Allen-Silverstein, and Daisy Moriyama published “No Silence on Race: An Open Letter from Black Jews, Non-Black Jews of Colour, and Our Allies to Jewish Congregations, Federations, Foundations, Organizations, Nonprofits and Initiatives.” In the letter, the authors called on members of the Jewish community to “uphold the tenets of justice and equality and . . . commit to the creation of a truly anti-racist, inclusive and equitable Jewish community.” And while the open letter would end up inspiring more than twenty statements of support from Canadian-Jewish organizations, it was to prove only the beginning.

At the heart of the group’s work – now consisting of Yacobi-Harris, Allan-Silverstein, and Yoni Belete – has been Periphery, “an evocative photographic and film project that bears witness to ethnic diversity in the Jewish community”. The photographs—taken by Liat Aharoni—were displayed at the Prosserman JCC from 4 October 2021–20 March 2022, and the documentary film—directed by Sara Yacobi-Harris with cinematography by Marcus Armstrong—was premiered at the same venue on 28 October 2021. In November of that same year, the OJA formally acquired Aharoni’s photograph series. In addition to the photographs, the OJA also acquired the full, unedited interviews for each of the individuals interviewed in the documentary. Following the successful launch of Periphery, NSOR and OJA launched the Periphery Curriculum, an extension of the exhibition that draws on the photographs, interviews, and documentary that provides pedagogic supports for teaching students and adults about diversity within the Jewish community.

The OJA continues to partner with NSOR. In April 2023, the two organizations partnered to re-launch Periphery at the Myseum of Toronto Intersections Festival. The latter will consist of three experiences: a festival preview exhibition from 7—14 April, an exhibition launch and documentary roundtable on 16 April, and the exhibition itself from 15—30 April.

Visit the website to watch the film, the extended series, and access the curriculum resources.

Archivist Notes

The OJA was proud to partner with NSOR on Periphery. Doing so allowed both organizations to tackle deep-seated assumptions about what a Jew looks like and who speaks for Jews as a community. By preserving the material generated by Periphery, the OJA can ensure that the perspectives of Black Jews and Jews of colour are available to generations of researchers to come.

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