I was featured in Millennial ‘Gatherings’ Bride Cultural Gaps, an article showing some of the innovative ways that Jewish millennials are impacting the Jewish community. It was originally published in the New York Jewish Week on July 6, 2017.
“The dinners are also an example of a recent trend in millennial engagement: letting millennials lead the way. While it once was enough for the younger generation to have a voice in Jewish leadership, a seat at the board meeting so to speak, now that’s not enough, said Evan Traylor, the Union for Reform Judaism’s first presidential fellow for millennial engagement. “I think that now we’re kind of shifting,” he said. “In the past it was OK to be part of the system, but now we want to be able to build something unique for ourselves.”
With so many opportunities in the world, why would a 23-year old still be working at summer camp? Why Summer Camp Is A Real Job is my reflection on the power of summer camp to change the lives of participants each and every summer. It was originally posted on the URJ Kutz Camp Blog on July 4, 2017.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs interviewed me to talk about Parashat Yirto for On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah, a podcast from the Union for Reform Judaism that explores each week’s Torah portion. We discussed the wisdom of Yitro, Moses’s father-in-law, and how we can value the contributions of the non-Jewish members of our Jewish community. Check out the video and download the podcast as well!
Getting the Full Story On Birthright is my exploration in on my newest roles in the Jewish community – Birthright Israel staff member. Following my first Birthright experience, I reflected on the power of this trip through several perspectives, and challenge the wider Jewish community to go deeper when they encounter a Jewish young adult returning from Birthright. It was originally published in the New York Jewish Week on February 24, 2017.
Adventure, Dream, & Discover the Holy was delivered during Shabbat morning services at Temple Beth-El in Charlotte, North Carolina during the installation of Rabbi Asher Knight on December 8, 2016. An adapted version is posted on ReformJudaism.org.
A Relationship in the Making was originally posted on the ARZA Blog on December 27, 2016 as part of the Taking Back the Z, a series of blogs demonstrating the inspiration and power of Reform Zionism.
What if Torah study didn’t have to be boring? What if learning Torah included awesome rhymes, Hamilton references, and rap battles? Started by staff members at the URJ Kutz Camp (myself & Matt Wall), Shabbat Sha’Raps is the perfect combination of hip-hop and Torah! Check out all of our raps and continue to look for more during the year.
I am honored to be part of the 2016 cohort of the New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36”, a group of incredible Jewish educators, activists, innovators, and community builders dedicated to make the Jewish community and world a better place.
In honor of the life and memory of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I delivered my Snapshots of Freedom sermon on January 15, 2016 at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ahead of that weekend, I talked with the Twin City JewFolk about social justice, inclusion, and diversity in the Jewish community.
I was featured in Black Lives in the Jewish Community: We Matter, Too, a powerful examination of Black Jews of Color and our experiences in the Jewish community, and especially in fighting racism through education and activism. It was originally published in Haaretz on December 30, 2015.
“Evan Traylor grew up attending Jewish summer camp in Texas and was the North American president of NFTY, a Jewish youth group, during his freshman year in college. Now a senior at the University of Kansas, he’s double majoring in political science and Jewish studies, which is apt: For him, the personal has become political.
“In the last year or so, as conversations around race and racism and privilege have come up in society, I’ve been more interested in understanding what is my role in this conversation,” he told Haaretz.
Traylor’s father is African-American and his mother is white. As a self-described Jew of color, he has always been aware of how his heritage affects his experience in the Jewish community. But the nationwide conversation in the United States sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement a year and a half ago has inspired and empowered him and many Jews of color to bring that conversation into their Jewish communities. Having long felt invisible, they are ready to be counted.”
Throughout 2015, I had the opportunity to write a series of blogs for the Jewish Multiracial Network, an organization doing incredible work to support Jews of Color and their families through community building, learning sessions, and online resources. Writing for JMN was truly an honor and provided me with the space to explore myself as a Jew of Color.
What’s Your Story?
My personal introductory blog for the Jewish Multiracial Network sharing some the most pivotal Jewish experiences in my life.
Published February 11, 2015 – Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN)
In The Image of God
In Part 2, I discuss the importance seeing each and every person “in the image of God” and how this value can positively impact our communities.
Published March 22, 2015 – Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN)
Where Should the Money Go?
For Part 3, I explore my financial commitments over the past year and ask the question: would my money be better spent in Black organizations than Jewish organizations?
Published June 23, 2015 – Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN)
Black Lives Matter (Including the Jewish Ones)
Part 4 features a discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of all Jewish denominations, organizations, and communities supporting a movement that is standing up for members of the Jewish faith.
Published August 19, 2015 – Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN)
New Conversations for 2016
As I conclude my JMN Blog Series, I reflect upon the inspiring and challenging moments of 2015 and provide some questions to make 2016 a more just and whole year for all people.
Published December 10, 2015 – Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN)
Owning My Identities was originally published on October 27, 2015 as part of Be’chol Lashon’s Jewish& series on MyJewishLearning.com.
“Since I was a little kid growing up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I’ve always known that I was somehow different in the Jewish community. I didn’t look like the other kids in Hebrew school. I was the only one to have Black family members at their bar mitzvah ceremony. And I eventually took on the expectation of providing the perspective and feelings of Black people to my Jewish friends in youth group and at camp.”
My Experience Walking Through Ferguson is my reflection after visiting Ferguson, Missouri one year after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. It was written on the night of August 6, 2015 and published on ReformJudaism.org.
I saw. I heard. I fully understood.
Tonight, I walked through Ferguson.”
Just Because I’m Jewish Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Black is my reflection of growing up as a Jew of Color in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It was originally posted on ReformJudaism.org on June 22, 2015.
“From its first mention in the Torah to today’s many interpretations, the value of b’tselem Elohim is about honoring both the characteristics that are different between us and the ones we share in common. As the Jewish community continues to evolve and grow in regards to race, we must take this value to heart and know that it is central to hearing, exploring, understanding, and exploring the story of each and every person.”
Each and every year, Jews gather around elegant tables with family and friends to mark the beginning of Passover. Through all of the good food, traditions, and rituals, we retell and remember the triumph of the Israelites over the tyranny and enslavement of Pharaoh in Egypt. While celebrating our freedoms, we remember the power of resistance in the face of oppression, liberation in the face of enslavement, and creating justice and equality for our people.
I was honored to work with a group of passionate and dynamic activists to connect these values and lessons from the Exodus story to our work supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Our hope is this: that all members of the Jewish community hear the struggle of Black people in the United States, learn from and wrestle with these stories and facts, and commit themselves to creating a more just future for each and every one of us.
What’s Behind Israel’s Veil is my reflection after my third experience in Israel, where I spent 10 days exploring political and social issues throughout the Jewish state. It was originally published for New Voices on February 10, 2015.
Several times throughout our trip, I left the session feeling frustrated at the way Israel, a country that should serve as a “light unto the nations”, was handling its challenges. However, I needed to see the full picture, the good and the bad, to truly connect myself with Israel. Even among many policies that I disagree with, I know that Israel is worth fighting for because it has the potential to stand for equality for all people, justice for the marginalized, and serve the Jewish people and the world.
I was part of a group of young adults featured in an article in the Daily Oklahoman focused on interfaith dialogue and collaboration: Is Oklahoma City ready to…Go Beyond Coexistence? These young people say YES.
Presenting to more than 1,000 teens, staff, and youth professionals at NFTY Convention 2013 in Los Angeles, CA, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and NFTY President Evan Traylor shared inspiring words of Torah. Through personal stories and their analysis of T’rumah, the two presidents challenged the audience to identify their unique gifts and use them to better their communities.
Seize Your Moment in Judaism, a commentary on Parasha Lech L’cha,
Each of us has a Jewish journey full of experiences, people, and moments that have affected and changed our perception and connection to Judaism. While some of these may have been more enjoyable or memorable than others, the collection of Jewish experiences and moments in each of our lives have changed us and Reform Judaism as a whole.
In this week’s parashah, Abram hears the words “Lech l’cha,” which can be translated as, “Go forward for your own sake!” After remembering his past, Abram courageously seizes his opportunity in the present in order to fulfill and complete his destiny, his Lech l’cha.
Each one of us has opportunities to rise up, just as Abram did, and seize our own moments in Judaism. But when will those opportunities arise that can change our Jewish lives? We will never know the spiritual moments or relationships we are missing out on if we do not step outside of our comfort zones to seize the opportunities waiting for us. All of us need to allow ourselves to seize the moment and become inspired through Reform Jewish experiences. By stepping outside of our comfort zones and attending a Temple event that we have never been to before, or having a conversation with someone who just joined the congregation, we are creating our own destiny in Judaism. Lech l’cha, Go forward and seize your own moment in your Jewish journey.
A D’var Torah for NFTY’s Summer Home was my first speech as NFTY President and discusses the importance of relationships and building community. It was originally presented at the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY on June 25, 2012 and published on the NFTY Blog.
“As we look ahead to a great summer at the URJ Kutz Camp and an exciting NFTY year, I have a challenge for you: take the initiative to create intentional and meaningful relationships in your life. Reach out to others in your Kutz and NFTY communities and go beyond just a friendly passing; take the time to create an experience and bond with someone else. Take the initiative to ensure that the people you met yesterday at the first day of Kutz, become a part of your story, and the story of the Jewish people.”