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Rivka Campbell: Harmony in a divided identity

Mar 1, 2019

Jews of Colour event

Photo by the Western Gazette

Jennifer Brodie is an Ivey HBA1 student and Vice President of Campus Engagement at Western Hillel. She helped plan and attended the Jews of Colour event at Ivey, in honour of Black History Month, and blogged about the experience.

To honour Black History Month, Ally at Ivey, Black Students' Association, and Western Hillel (Jewish cultural club) collaborated to present “Jews of Colour: A Conversation with Rivka Campbell.”

Black History Month celebrates the many different narratives of Black Canadians. Campbell, a Jewish woman of Jamaican descent, seeks to build community among Jews of Colour in Canada while opening dialogue about cultural and ethnic diversity. Jews of Colour is a pan-ethnic term for Jewish people whose family origins are from African, Asian, or Latin American countries.

Campbell’s story: “Too Black to be Jewish, too Jewish to be Black”

Campbell has faced challenges finding harmony in both the Black Canadian and Jewish communities, using phrasing such as “too Black to be Jewish, too Jewish to be Black” to share her sentiments of feeling divided by her identify. Despite the challenges she faces, Campbell says she still finds ways to be meaningfully involved in her Jewish community, even serving as a Synagogue administrator in Toronto.

By providing insights on what it is like to be a minority within a minority, Campbell defied the collective assumptions of what it means to be a Jew.

Her passion for advocacy reminded the audience to stay true to themselves, and embrace what makes them different. It is important to hear stories like these to create a safe and welcoming campus for all.

The impact: Student testimonials

Mark Omenugha, a member of the Black Students’ Association, said the event was eye opening: “It was surreal to hear a voice that is almost invisible in mainstream thought. Rivka showed me an intersection that I unfortunately did not know existed.”

A Hillel member, Daniel Samoilov, shared a similar experience to Omenugha: “There is more to my community than I had previously thought. I was surprised to learn about the struggles that Jews of Colour face in Canada and abroad. Despite this, I learned about the strength that Judaism gave Rivka and its role in shaping her identity. Although she might face different challenges than I do, we are in the same family. I’m grateful that this event opened up an important conversation on a previously overlooked topic.”