Voorhees, NJ… Congregation Beth El of Voorhees, NJ, celebrated its second annual Juneteenth program on Monday, June 19, 2023; more than 100 people attended. Achim Sheli: My Brothers and Sisters, the congregation’s Jews of Color and their allies, coordinates this special program each year.

In welcoming participants, Rabbi David Englander, Senior Rabbi, said “I am proud that Beth El continues to lead the way on being welcoming to all who seek to link their Jewish journey to our congregation. Jews of color, diverse ethnicities and their friends have a home here as we strive to build the strongest and most respectful community we can, constantly learning from and standing up for each other.”

Dr. Tameika Minor and Tonia Respes, Congregation Beth El members and Co-Chairs of Achim Sheli, explained that "One of the values of Achim Sheli is Lomed M’kol Adam, that we should learn from everyone. Achim Sheli strives to design programs where everyone can learn from each other and also honor and respect our respective and collective rich traditions and heritage. Not only was the Juneteenth Jewbilee a celebration, but it was also a learning experience, from the kids crafts and book recommendations to even having our community learning to dance the hora! It displayed the rich diversity not just in the south Jersey Jewish community, but our community as a whole. This is just the beginning of our efforts to continue to build bridges."

Beth El’s Juneteenth celebration included delicious kosher southern food cooked by a team of volunteers, showcase of Black owned business vendors, kids activities, and live music featuring Elle Gyandoh and the John Doe Band. This growing annual program included attendees from the black and Jewish communities, Camden, Philadelphia, and a visitor who took a bus from NYC just to participate in the Beth El Jewish Juneteenth experience.

“Always remember the reason why you started, is something my grandmother would say to me when I was a kid,” shared Tracy Bancroft, Achim Sheli Committee member. “I think we kept that in mind while being part of the team making our Juneteenth Jewbilee a reality. The reason was simply to honor the Juneteenth holiday by respectfully and intentionally celebrating, whether as a Jew of Color or as an ally and creating a space for joy. Add in the live music and great food, and it turned out to be the perfect way to bring everyone together. More than twice the number of guests attended the event than last year, and we are excited to start planning for next year’s Juneteenth.”

For more information about Achim Sheli or Congregation Beth El, please reach out to Roberta S. Clark, Development & Membership Director (rclark@bethelsnj.org or 856-520-8742).

Photo left to right: Congregation Beth El Members and   Achim Sheli leaders Tonia Respes, Dr. Tameika Minor and Tracy Bancroft.


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