Alumna Sara Yacobi-Harris has an accomplished resumé: the Arts and Contemporary Studies ’16 graduate has produced and directed a documentary, Who Is a Jew?, worked at CBC’s Unscripted department championing diverse voices in film, founded No Silence on Race, an organization pursuing racial equity and creating inclusive Jewish spaces in Canada, all while finishing her master’s in education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
Still, Yacobi-Harris says she has yet to arrive. “I’m constantly in this process of becoming.” Her work in anti-racism started with her personal journey as a Black Jewish woman.
“The questions that I’m pondering are about recognition. I think about this specifically in the context of Jews of colour.”
She credits her time at Ryerson for pushing her curiosity to exploration and activism. “Seeing myself represented in the student body in ways I hadn’t seen in my upbringing was just so invigorating, so inspiring,” says Yacobi-Harris. “It helped me find my voice. There will always be those that blaze new paths forward but oftentimes, you cannot be what you cannot see.” In 2018 there were roughly 392,000 Jewish Canadians, making up just over one per cent of the Canadian population. “Jews of colour are like a minority within a minority,” says Yacobi-Harris. “Being a Black Jewish woman is a rich and nuanced ethnoracial identity to hold.”
Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, Yacobi-Harris says she watched closely to see what was happening within the Jewish community. “There are a lot of incredible Jewish organizations across the country that are really engaged in meaningful anti-racism and inclusion work,” says Yacobi-Harris. “But what I wanted to see more of was our community having difficult conversations about how some of this might manifest in our own spaces, and how we are inadvertently misrecognizing those in our own communities.”
After many conversations with fellow Black Jews and Jews of colour, Yacobi-Harris created No Silence on Race. Then with a few collaborators, she penned a letter to Jewish congregations, foundations and other organizations to “commit to the creation of a truly anti-racist, inclusive and equitable Jewish community.” While No Silence on Race is still in its infancy, Yacobi-Harris hopes the conversations she is having and work the organization is doing will help create a safer place for Jews of colour in the wider Jewish community.
“When you create community for minorities within a minority, to actually recognize one another and see themselves, there’s such healing power in that.”