Funder Profile: Ilana Kaufman
"I thought I was like everybody else until it was pointed out to me that I was black. It was not that I didn’t know—I just didn’t know that I was different as a Jewish person than the other Jewish people."
Ilana Kaufman is the Director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, a consortium of funders dedicated to building out and advancing the professional, organizational and communal field of support for Jews of Color. According to the Initiative, Jews of Color currently represent 12 to 15% of the American Jewish population.
The Jews of Color Field Building Initiative awarded one of its very first grants to URJ to establish a Jew V’Nation Jews of Color cohort. The URJ had developed a pilot Leadership Fellowship/Project Incubator program called Jew V’Nation the previous year. It was just what the Initiative was looking for. Fellows participated in cutting-edge seminars focusing on the diversity of Jewish identity, professional and leadership development, Jewish learning, movement-building, mentorship, risk-taking, and project work.
“URJ has been one of our bravest frontrunners,” according to Ilana, who volunteered to mentor fellows. The 2018 Jews of Color cohort worked on impactful projects that were inclusive and intentional about Jewish diversity. Successful projects included creation of a training program for religious school educators, available online in 2019. Fellows will continue as fellowship alumni in 2019, participating in continued meetings and leadership/skill building opportunities generously funded by The Jews of Color Fielding Building Grant.
Ilana Kaufman is a nationally recognized leader working at the intersection of Jewish community and racial justice and has worked with URJ to develop leadership and focus in this space. Through her support and guidance this work has moved center stage for us as part of our dedication to diversity and inclusion.