Maayan Zik named one of The Jewish Week’s "36 under 36"
Maayan Zik is a community organizer, activist, and proud Black Jewish woman within the Brooklyn Crown Heights community. After the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020, she founded several initiatives, including the “Tahalucha for Social Justice,” in order to mobilize her community to advocate for positive change. Since beginning her activism, she has been nationally recognized by prominent organizations such as the Jewish Week’s “36 under 36” for her important social action and community impact.
Zik was born in Alabama in 1985 and grew up in Washington D.C. As a teenager, she discovered that a relative on her mother’s side was rumored to be Jewish, which led her to delve into the study of Judaism, Hebrew, and Yiddish. Zik later moved to New York to pursue a degree in Fine Arts from Cooper Union, eventually moving into the Crown Heights neighborhood, where she explored Judaism further.
Unfortunately, Zik’s initial experiences in Crown Heights were entangled with acts of discrimination. As a Black woman in an insular community, she often experienced microaggressions or outright racist behavior. Slowly, however, she found her own space within the larger Chabad-Lubavitch world. Looking back at her experience, she explains how she comforted herself by focusing on joy: “‘It’s all going to be okay. Let’s work through this with joy, with simcha,” she remembers thinking She eventually converted at the age of 22. In 2008, she met the Israeli man who became her husband at a Shabbat dinner; they have four children together.
On June 7, 2020, a few weeks after the horrific murder of George Floyd, Zik and her friends decided to create their own rally, called “Tahalucha for Social Justice.” There, Zik introduced speakers and shared a Torah portion about lighting a menorah, reflecting on the underlying significance of igniting the flame. Her goal was to spread light and love even in tragic times, a core belief of Hasidism. Zik attributes her insistence on pursuing justice through action to being a mother. She states that were it not for witnessing her children endure discrimination within her own Jewish community and wanting to create a better world for them, she would not have taken action, believing that her work would not have made a difference.
Following her initial brush with activism, Zik and her friends established the organization Ker a velt. The name, according to the organization, is a Yiddish rallying cry urging people to “turn the world over” in pursuit of a world liberated in justice and peace. The organization seeks to amplify Black voices by sharing resources and support, with the goal of eventually meeting with politicians to advocate for positive change. She also co-founded Kamochah, an organization dedicated to supporting, giving voice to, and providing a community for those identifying as Black and Orthodox. Kamochah created camaraderie and togetherness for Black Jews, helping them to fully integrate into the Orthodox community by making Black Jewish traditions and narratives. In 2021, Zik was named one of The Jewish Week’s annual “36 under 36” list, which honors young Jews creating positive change in Jewish New York.
Hwang, Janice. “Maayan Zik, 36, Orthodox Racial Equity Activist.” NY Jewish Week, July 12, 2021. https://www.jta.org/2021/07/12/ny/maayan-zik-36-orthodox-racial-equity-activist
Stenstein, Liana. “How One Black Orthodox Jewish Woman Is Opening Minds in Her Brooklyn Community.” Vogue, June 30, 2020. https://www.vogue.com/article/how-one-black-orthodox-woman-is-opening-minds-in-her-brooklyn-community
Kamochah; Mission Statement. Accessed November 4, 2022 https://www.kamochah.com/mission-statement
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Maayan Zik named one of The Jewish Week’s "36 under 36"." (Viewed on February 8, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/12/2021/maayan-zik-named-one-jewish-weeks-36-under-36>.