Sankofa Tzedek

“This program gave me a radically new way of engaging with people. This will be one of the best decisions you make at Columbia.”

Applications for Sankofa Tzedek will be accepted on a rolling basis until Friday, October 1 at 12:00 p.m.

Questions? Email us

About the Program

Sankofa: From the Akan tribe in Ghana, symbolizing a quest for knowledge based on critical examination and intelligent, patient investigation. Sankofa recognizes that as a people moves forward, the knowledge of the past must never be forgotten. (Carter G. Woodson Center)

Tzedek: Hebrew word for “justice” as found in the biblical phrase “Justice. Justice. Shall you pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

Black and Jewish communities, once seen as natural allies in various social movements, have faced increasing separation and tension in recent decades, including the erasure of Black Jewish narratives and experiences. Sankofa Tzedek brings together a cohort of students on campus for a year of personal identity development, intergroup dialogue, intercultural learning, transformational travel and social justice education that centers the experiences and histories of Black and Jewish communities.

Sankofa Tzedek meets twice a month for day-long programs on Fridays, along with a weekend-long retreat in the fall and a two-week immersive travel experience during January of Winter Break. 

Program participants are paid a $1,000 stipend for participation, with additional funds available for students who would have to give up a part-time job to participate. See below for program highlights and frequently asked questions. 


Build Community

Sankofa Tzedek creates an intimate cohort of friends who engage in meaningful dialogue, share culture and traditions, and work to build a campus of affirmation and justice.

“I think one way that this program was impactful was making connections with people in a way where the expectation was to have deep, meaningful conversations. Because of this, I've been able to grow these relationships and continue the conversations with people in the program outside of the program.”

“What moved me most about being a part of Sankofa Tzedek was getting to know so many incredible people. The opportunities for vulnerability and learning were so important and something I had not found elsewhere at Columbia. I think getting to go on our journey to the south together was also a really great way to immerse ourselves in experiential learning and community building.”

Meet Changemakers

Participate in lively, candid conversations with community leaders and social justice movement strategists of the past and present.

“Being presented the privilege to be able to hear from so many amazing and wonderful speakers was something I will truly cherish. They each gave me so much to think about and grapple with. I am so grateful for this opportunity, thank you.”
“I loved the people I've met through this program. I LOVED meeting the survivors of the Civil Rights Movement. I feel so much closer to the histories of Black people in this country. I'm grateful to have learned about Jewish traditions and the different denominations within Judaism.”

Take A Journey

Explore sites of significance in New York City and participate in a two-week justice pilgrimage to Atlanta, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee to walk the path of history.

“This journey is not only a possibility; it’s a necessity. It is something I believe everyone should embark on at least once in their lifetime. For talking to people who were there, on the ground, witnessing the violence, the hatred, and also the heroism. For meeting people like Mr. Emerson and Ms. Bland; listening to the unheard voices that the media didn’t cover, that you can’t ever know unless you meet them in person. And these voices are fading, there is not much time before they pass from our world. It is imperative that as many people as possible go and listen to them and share their stories so they will never be forgotten.”

“Our trip down south was the most impactful experience for me, as I suspect it was for a lot of the cohort as well. Compassion and grace are two words I keep thinking about. I've been thinking a lot about what home means to me which people, which neighborhoods? I've been thinking about all of the ordinary people we met throughout our trip who decided that they were the right person to get involved, because it's not about one iconic historical figure but a movement of people that decide, in any moment, to commit to justice.”

Pursue Change

Receive training in community organizing and facilitation skills and have the opportunity to lead programming or advocacy for peers on Barnard and Columbia's campuses.

“Community building is hard work. It requires introspection, vulnerability, and communication. But what you get out of it is a community — a beautiful network of solidarities and connections and friends.”

“You will learn as much about yourself as you learn about the friends and communities you engage with in your cohort. I have learned to embrace discomfort and lean into that space where everything feels new and a little uncertain; that's where the learning happens, it's where the growth happens.” 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Sankofa Tzedek?

We bring together a cohort of students on campus for a year of personal identity development, intergroup dialogue, intercultural learning, transformational travel and social justice education that centers the experiences and histories of Black and Jewish communities. Through friendship-building; sustained dialogue on social identity, power and privilege and activism; and an exploration of the histories of Black and Jewish communities in New York City and the U.S. South, students will build transformational relationships; solidify a commitment to intercommunity solidarity for the purpose of ending racism, antisemitism and all forms of oppression; and acquire skills for being effective dialogue leaders on campus.

Why was this program created?

Black and Jewish communities, once seen as natural allies in various social movements, have faced increasing separation and tension in recent decades. Recent news headlines include questions about the role of Jewish social justice organizations in anti-racism work, disagreements about how Black leaders should respond to antisemitism, political debates about Palestine and Israel and more. These public tensions tend to make invisible the voices of Black Jews and lead to increasing separation of Black and Jewish communities. On campus, we see  if not outright tension  few opportunities for meaningful connections among Black and Jewish student organizations and administrative programs.

Who should join this cohort? Who will be facilitating?

The program is open to all undergraduate students. We are especially seeking students who are excited to engage with historical and current social justice movements, develop leadership skills and build meaningful relationships.

Sankofa Tzedek is a collaboration between Multicultural Affairs and the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life. Staff from these two offices will serve as facilitators throughout the year. 

Where will the cohort meet?

The cohort will meet on campus and also take offsite trips to locations such as Harlem, Crown Heights and the Lower East Side to visit with activists and sites of importance to Black and Jewish histories in New York. The cohort will travel together to the U.S. South on a winter break Justice Pilgrimage during the month of January.

How often does the cohort meet?

Please visit the application page for scheduled meeting times.

What does a typical Friday program entail?

Some Friday programs will be held on campus and some will feature outings in New York City. On campus, the cohort might spend a day engaged in dialogue about identity, privilege, culture and values; meeting with guest speakers; or learning leadership skills. Outings could include visits to museums, heritage sites, cultural restaurants and more. 


What is the winter break Justice Pilgrimage? How does it work?

The justice pilgrimage is a two-week day immersive travel experience to Atlanta, Georgia; Anniston, Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee, Alabama; Meridian, Jackson, and Ruleville, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Memphis, Tennessee. On the journey, Sankofa Tzedek will visit sites of heritage and history for Black and Jewish communities, meet with civil rights leaders of the past and present and engage in intergroup reflection and dialogue. Students will report to campus for the start of the pilgrimage, and we will make storage available for luggage that you need for the spring semester but do not wish to take on the journey. From there, we will fly to Atlanta. Alternatively, we may be able to arrange for students to fly from non-campus locations (wherever you’ll be for winter break) directly to Atlanta. We will travel by charter bus throughout the south, and fly back to NYC by Sunday, January 16. Upon returning to campus, students will be free to move into dorms in preparation for the spring semester.  

Will program requirements interfere with my religious observance?

Programming will either include opportunities for religious observance or be scheduled around times of religious observance. For example, retreat programming on a Friday/Saturday will include a celebration of Shabbat. Friday programs will end prior to the start of Shabbat. 

Do I have to pay to be a part of this program?

There are no program fees required to participate in Sankofa Tzedek.

What is the stipend?

Sankofa Tzedek depends on reliable participation in order for the program to meet its goals. In recognition of the time commitment that students will be asked to invest, the program will offer a $1,000 stipend for full participation. Limited additional funds may be available for students who will have to forgo a part-time job in order to participate fully in the program. The Sankofa Tzedek staff is happy to chat about how to make this space one that you can access fully!

How do I join?

Applications are available online and are due Friday, September 24 at 10:00 a.m. Facilitators will review applications during the following weeks and extend offers in early October. 

Multicultural Affairs


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