Thursday, January 05, 2006

When Jewish Means Ashkenazi

I found this article at PersianRabbi.com, it's a good article, but little long and reminds me of conversations that I have had with Jews and non-Jews alike. Here are some highlights.

"Gut shabbos; gut yuntif; let's say kiddish..."

Most Jews who have been involved even minimally in community religious life will be familiar with all these expressions. And if we are not, we are expected to be. This phenomenon is one of Ashkenazi privilege.

Ashkenazi privilege lies in the assumption that anything billed as "Jewish" will reflect Ashkenazi
identity: the assumption and expectation that if we open a book labeled "World Jewish history," we will find the modern history of Jews from Poland, Russia, and Germany; the assumption and expectation that if there is a Hanukkah party sponsored by the Jewish community, there will be dreidels, latkes, and gelt; the assumption and expectation that if we send our children to a Jewish school, they will learn Ashkenazi traditions...

Ashkenazi privilege lies in the assumption that anything billed as "Jewish" will reflect Ashkenazi identity; and that if it does not, whatever it is must not be valid. What kind of a Jewish cookbook is it, after all, if it does not include cholent, borscht, or kougel? What kind of a modern Jewish history book is it, after all, if it does not mention the Holocaust? And what kind of international Jewish assistance group is it, after all, if it does not include assisting Russian
Jews?

Yet, Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Ethiopian Jewish communities and traditions consistently are excluded from and invisible in every walk of Jewish life: Jewish language, thought, media, prayer, food, education, political analyses, music...every walk of Jewish life...

It is the responsibility of the mainstream Jewish community leaders to seek out and sponsor those individuals who are willing and able to help our community finally reflect Jewish diversity. Otherwise, there is no integrity in calling our community organizations Jewish. Rather, they should be called the Ashkenazi Federation, the Bureau of Ashkenazi Education, the Ashkenazi Community Relations Council, and so on.

Other post on Jews of Color, Ugandan Jews, and one more.

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