The year of 2020 has been pretty cursed so far, giving us COVID, murder hornets, and rampant white supremacy with no end in sight. Over the course of the summer, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope that Americans were beginning to understand the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion and how to incorporate it into their daily lives, as well as how to be actively anti-racist in our local communities, academic settings, and work spaces. People were protesting in the streets every single day for Black lives and against police brutality and the systems that allow it to continue in this country.
When I started writing articles about my experiences as a Jew of Color, more folks began asking me questions about my life and asking for help to become a better ally. It was beautiful. I really thought we were making progress. But over the past few months, people have been slipping with their activism. Many realized that to be an activist and an anti-racist every day is not an easy job, and they gave up. And we’re still faced with a lack of diversity in so many areas of our lives, including the Jewish community.
Take, for example, the “Nice Jewish Guys” wall calendar. Published by Workman, the calendar — which has been around since 2009 and recently released a 2021 version — is exactly what you might imagine: photos of eligible young Jewish bachelors with names like Jonah and Ben that you can “bring home to mom,” as the tagline says. Some of the men are pictured eating matzah ball soup they made themselves, some are holding their dogs, and others are posed in front of the computer at their very stable jobs. They all either have the exact same facial hair or are completely smooth, no in-between. Pretty classic.
There’s just one problem: They’re almost all white. Every single calendar going back to at least 2016 features nearly entirely white Jew after white Jew. Now, in 2016, the Jewish community wasn’t actively talking about Jewish racial discrimination in the way we are now. But it’s 2020, y’all. It’s time to get serious.
When reached for comment, Workman confirmed that the 2021 NJB calendar features one Mexican-American Jew in the April spread. That’s it, and it’s not enough. The beauty of the Jewish community lies in just how diverse we truly are, including Ethiopian Jews, Asian Jews, Black Jews — indeed, we’ve got Jews of every race. And it’s well beyond time the products geared and marketed towards us reflects that.
Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “Aviva, it’s just a stupid calendar.” And of course, it is. But when people go into projects with an “it’s just a joke” mindset, they automatically start slacking. When I see an item advertised towards Jews that only represents the white majority of the Jewish community, I can’t help but feel disappointed and excluded, and it’s exhausting how often this feeling accompanies myself and my peers in our daily lives.
A common response to BIPOC Jews questioning inclusion in projects like this calendar is, “Well, we just couldn’t find any non-white Jews,” or, “We didn’t know where to look,” or even worse, “We didn’t really think about it.” That’s weak. We live in a digital age where a simple Google search pulls up millions of relevant answers. It’s not like us Black Jews are sitting under manhole covers waiting to be “discovered.” We’re everywhere, you’re just not trying hard enough to look for us. So just ask us if we want to work with you. We like fun stuff and silly calendars, too!
I’m not saying you can’t buy the Nice Jewish Boys calendar for your friends; go right ahead. But when you see tchotkes like this, try to view it from our perspective. I want to get in on the silly fun, but in a way that doesn’t remind me that the larger Jewish community forgets I exist.
Also, the guys in the calendar aren’t even shirtless, so it’s like…what’s the point?