Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) was founded in 1990 to address the racial/ethnic tensions and economic disparities in New York City. This program celebrates the tenth anniversary of JFREJ.
JFREJ was founded by two women, mostly led by women (five out of six directors), and driven by a mostly female staff. Though the content of our mission is not specifically feminist, we have modeled feminist activism and included a feminist spin on issues such as hate violence, right of workers to organize, police brutality, and educational equity. I was hired as JFREJ’s first director, and, as a teacher and scholar of Jewish women’s studies, I drew on contacts not only with progressive Jews but especially with Jewish feminists. My essay, “Fighting Racism as Jews: Beyond Black/Jewish Dialogue,” focused on terrain which had mostly been occupied –belligerently – by men. Here and in other writings and actions as JFREJ’s director, I reached out to – and was reached out to by – African American women who wanted to get beyond militaristic rhetoric to work in solidarity around our common issues.
Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz was an activist, active since the early 1960s civil rights movement in Harlem. She served as co-chair of the New Jewish Agenda Task Force on Anti-Semitism and Racism, and was the first director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in New York City (1992-95). She also served on the JFREJ Board from 1995-2004. She directed the Queens College Worker Education Extension Center until 2004, and currently teaches in Urban Studies at Queens College. Her books include My Jewish Face & other stories; The Issue Is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence, and Resistance; and (co-edited) The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology. Her newest book is The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism. She is co-founder of Beyond the Pale: The Progressive Jewish Radio Hour in New York City. Kaye/Kantrowitz spoke and wrote frequently on such topics as: Jews and whiteness; multiracial Jewish community; radical Jewish history, including women’s history; African American-Jewish relations; and racism, anti-Semitism, and class.
More on Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz
- Lesson Plan: Jews and the Civil Rights Movement: the Whys and Why Nots
- Blog: Strangeness and Home, Rock and Water
- Blog: Jewish Feminist Texts Help Me Get through the Pandemic
- Encyclopedia Article: Lesbianism
- Encyclopedia Article: Peace Movement in the United States
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz." (Viewed on December 4, 2023) <https://jwa.org/feminism/kaye-kantrowitz-melanie>.
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