Juneteenth: Jewbilee Provides Unique Venue for Celebration


Tomeika Minor, Tonia Respes and Tracy Bancroft of Congregation Beth El. Photo courtesy of Tomeika Minor.


VOORHEES — At first blush, Congregation Beth El’s Juneteenth Jewbilee event on Wednesday, June 19, would catch some off guard.

A synagogue is not exactly the first place one would think to find a Juneteenth celebration. But come June 19, Jewbilee founders Tomeika Minor and Tonia Respes said their congregation will be all in with food, Black-owned vendors, education on Juneteenth, celebration of the end of slavery and live music.

“Some people would ask, ‘Is this a Black event or a Jewish event?'” said Minor, an assistant professor at Rutgers University. “I tell them, ‘It’s both because I’m both. Jews come in all hues.”

Thanks to our Juneteenth sponsor Inspira Health.

This is actually the second Juneteenth Jewbilee held by Congregation Beth El’s Achim Sheli, which means “My Brothers and Sisters” in Hebrew. Minor said the idea came about after the death of George Floyd and social justice protests in 2020.

“We had people reach out to us and ask how we were feeling as Jews of color and how we can support you,” Minor said. “From there, we decided to have a Juneteenth celebration. The name just kind of rolled off our tongue, calling it a Juneteenth Jewbilee.”

In planning the first event last year, Minor admitted that she and her committee received a lot of questions.

“We had some people say, ‘Wait, they’re Black Jews? I think some people didn’t know how to take us,” Minor said with a hearty laugh. “But it just all came together, and it was great. We had about 100 attendees, food, vendors and a live band.”

Organizer of Congregation Beth El’s Juneteenth Jewbilee. Photo courtesy of Tomeika Minor.

Minor said while some questioned having the event in a synagogue, Minor said synagogues have long been community gathering places and proved to be the perfect setting.

“Synagogues are always places where people come together and that’s exactly what we wanted to do here,” Minor said. “We had to give out a lot of information and debunk a lot of misinformation. When people came here and saw our Jewbilee with their own eyes, they said, ‘Wow, this is alright.'”

Yet, it is a unique venue for a Juneteenth celebration. An unofficial perusal of Juneteenth events all around New Jersey this year found that only the Voorhees celebration was being held in a synagogue.

While some might see strains in the current relationship between Blacks and Jews with the current Israel-Gaza War, others see opportunities to build on it, which was at its height during the Civil Rights era.

“Today’s Black-Jewish relationship is encased in amber from the civil rights era, and I don’t think it’s properly understood,” Jacques Berlinerblau, professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, told National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on March 28.

“And until we properly understand it, we might not be able to make sense of current political developments.”

For Minor, she said there are plenty of examples in history of where Jews and Blacks have come together for common causes. Jews and Blacks came together at the dawn of the NAACP. The organization’s highest national award, the Spingarn Medal, is named after one of the most prominent Jewish members Joel Spingarn in 1914.

Minor said, along with the networking and mingling, the food and the music will be the highlight of the evening, with a mixture of homemade soul food and traditional Jewish dishes. She said she also hopes that everyone will leave the event learning of someone new, and better educated of the past, which will make them better prepared to take on the future.

The Jewbilee will be held at Congregation Beth El, 8000 Main Street in Voorhees on Wednesday, June 19 from 6-9 p.m.

Follow Us Today On:





Note from AC JosepH Media: If you like this story and others posted on Front Runner New Jersey.com, lend us a hand so we can keep producing articles like these for New Jersey and the world to see. Click on SUPPORT FRNJ and make a contribution that will go directly in making more stories like this available. Thank you for reading.

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *