Currently director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, Ilana Kaufman was the first Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Director, East Bay, for the San Francisco, CA-based Jewish Community Relations Council, and a Schusterman Fellow. She has twenty years of leadership, community building and organizational development experience. As a strategic designer, planner and problem solver, Ilana is regularly engaged by regional and national Jewish federations, community relations organizations, philanthropic entities and community service providers.
She has been featured in the Jewish Times of America, Jewish Women’s Archive, Jewish Multiracial Network, Repair the World and the J Weekly (the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish newspaper, where she is also a regular contributor), and has published articles the Forward, eJewish Philanthropy, The Foundation Review and Independent School Magazine. A nationally regarded thought leader on the importance of grappling with race and racism in the Jewish community, Ilana was featured in the series “ELI Talks: Inspired Jewish Ideas” in 2015 and was recognized by both the Jewish Multiracial Network and the New York Public Library Blog Celebrating African American Jews for Black History Month in 2016.
A graduate of Cal-State Humboldt, Ilana holds a Master Degree in Educational Pedagogy from Mills College.
In 2015, I was a program officer for the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties. One day, as I working out of our offices near the Embarcadero in San Francisco, I glanced out my window and saw hundreds of people milling on the street below, waiting for a Black Lives Matter March to begin.
Why I Do This Work
I felt compelled to be down there marching too.
That was a moment of awakening for me. Like all of us, I have a number of identities, and in the professional Jewish world, we lead with our identities as Jews. But as someone who is also African-American, and I wondered at that moment how to purposefully integrate my identities and the perspectives into my work.
Around the same time, general awareness of the unequal treatment of African-Americans by police officers and the racism still deep in the veins of the United States was growing among my colleagues in the Jewish community, and they started reaching out, in -- looking for guidance on how their organizations could respond to racial injustice—both inside and outside of the Jewish community.
The world is changing around us—according to the U.S. Census, by 2044 more than half of all Americans will be nonwhite. Right now, nearly 20% of American Jews are nonwhite. More than 70% of non-Orthodox Jews marry outside the faith. The math doesn't lie — the Jewish community in the United States is and will become more racially diverse. And this is an important time to develop more community capacities at the intersection of Jewish community, identity and racial justice.