This year, Juneteenth arrives in the midst of a global pandemic, widespread protests against police violence and a national conversation about systemic racism. Taking its name from June 19, 1865, the holiday marks the day when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and brought news of the Confederacy’s demise to the enslaved people there, the last in America to hear that emancipation was at hand.
Instead of the parades and picnics that normally celebrate the holiday, Juneteenth will take place online, through virtual gatherings that express solidarity with the black community, examine our nation’s history of racial inequity, and recommit to action in the future.
Several Jewish organizations are hosting events to honor Juneteenth or have created resources for you to use at home. Here are four ways you can mark the holiday.
The Jewish Multiracial Network has created a “Black Lives Kaddish” for those who want to reflect on the current moment and mourn “those who have been victimized and killed by ongoing racism,” the organization said on Facebook. “We know that to oppress the body of the human, is to break the heart of the divine. We yearn for the day when the bent will stand straight,” the prayer reads in part. If you observe Shabbat, work this into your weekly ritual.
Attend a musical Kabbalat Shabbat service.
Be’chol Lashon, an organization that promotes diversity within the Jewish community, will host a Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat service to reflect on the legacy of Juneteenth. Rabbi Sandra Lawson, a pro at virtual observance who’s been live-streaming morning prayer from her porch since the onset of the pandemic, and Rabbi Isaama Goldstein-Stoll will lead the service. The 5 p.m. EDT event is free, but you must register in advance here.
Listen to faith leaders.
Alongside the UJA Federation of New York, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Associations will host an afternoon conversation on the historic relationship between religion and racism, and the ways “people of faith” can respond to the current moment. Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum will share a discussion with Christian clergy. You can register for the 1:30 p.m. EDT event here
The Jews of Color Caucus within the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs, a Chicago-based organization, is hosting a family-friendly Zoom havdalah service that will reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth. “It was hope that empowered newly liberated people to begin their journey away from the darkness of chattel slavery. On Juneteenth, we honor and celebrate their exodus,” organizers said on Facebook. Register for the 7 p.m. CDT event here.
Join our conversation.
On Friday, Rabbi Sandra Lawson and Forward columnist Tema Smith will join the Forward’s editor in chief, Jodi Rudoren, in a conversation about the origins of Juneteenth and how Jews can engage with it this year. Register for the 12 p.m. EDT event here.
Irene Katz Connelly is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact her at email@example.com.