Ford Foundation’s Social Justice Leader to Speak on Confronting Racial History at Montclair Synagogue September 21

Tanya Coke, director of the Ford Foundation’s Program on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice. will speak on “Confronting our Racial History: The Past is Never Dead. It Isn’t Even Past,” at Bnai Keshet’s first Kaplan Minyan of the season Saturday morning, September 21, 2019. The Kaplan Minyan will be held in Bnai Keshet’s main sanctuary. Shabbat services begin at 9:30 a.m., with Coke speaking at 11:00.

A Montclair resident, Coke is among the nation’s leading thinkers and practitioners in the area of social justice theory and reform. She will be addressing how our present-day realities, particularly in regard to criminal justice, are directly reflective of our history. The event also serves as preparation for Bnai Keshet’s November visit to the Equal Justice Institute museum and memorial in Montgomery, AL.

Coke’s Ford Foundation team focuses on mass incarceration, treatment of immigrants, and gender and reproductive justice. She’s distinguished lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, teaching courses on public policy and working on school-to-prison pipeline issues. Prior to that, she was a program director on criminal justice for the Open Society Institute and a program manager for the US Human Rights Fund. She also served as a senior consultant to the Atlantic Philanthropies from 2010 to 2013, while running a strategic-planning consulting practice for social justice nonprofits and philanthropist.

Coke began her career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund as a capital punishment project researcher. After attending law school, she practiced as a trial attorney in the Federal Defender Division of the Legal Aid Society, defending clients in drug, immigration, and other federal matters in New York City. She is a graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she was a Root Tilden public interest scholar and editor in chief of the law review. She holds an undergraduate degree from Yale College.

The Bnai Keshet Kaplan inyans are named for Reconstructionist Judaism founder Mordecai Kaplan, who sought to create a Jewish framework for discussions of ethics, culture, history, and current events. They are designed for people who enjoy a communal Shabbat and want to enrich their understanding of Jewish peoplehood in an alternative, less traditional setting.

Bnai Keshet, an inclusive Reconstructionist synagogue serving the Greater Essex area, is located at 99 So. Fullerton Ave., Montclair. For more information, visit

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