How Sarah Kolker uses art to inspire her communities—Jewish, Black and beyond

An event for the Philedelphia-based program jkid4all, held in partnership with the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, held in December 2023. Sarah Kolker (second from left) is the head of jkid4all. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Kolker)

When Sarah Kolker returned to her hometown neighbourhood in Philadelphia as a young adult, she noticed a run-down park that she grew up around. She remembered how her mom wouldn’t let her go to the park at all. But now, the artist and social justice advocate was inspired to help reimagine the public space entirely.

She joined in starting petitions, holding community gatherings, and meeting with politicians and block captains—and ultimately wound up painting a large, colourful mural in the park with her friend and neighbour. Today, with improved lighting and funding from the city, the park hosts festivals regularly and has become a renewed space for children and adults.

Kolker doesn’t pretend like her art transformed the place on its own—but it was a key compotent to help galvanize, inspire and unite her hometown community.

It’s similar to the work she does as the director of jkid4all, a program for Jewish families of colour in Philadelphia, which aims to foster a cohesive, welcoming, diverse Jewish community in the city. Kolker joins Rivkush, The CJN’s podcast about inspiring Jews of colour, to discuss her work both inside and beyond her Jewish community.


Rivkush is hosted by Rivka Campbell. Michael Fraiman is the editor and prodcer. Our theme music is by Westside Gravy. The show is sponsored by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and is a member of The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast or donating to The CJN.