Sunday, January 17, 2010

Obviously, You Were Not Born Jewish!

This past Shabbat, I was at this pretty progressive shul in Baltimore, I say progressive because I want you to understand that what I experienced is typical of my experiences in synagogues and also typical of the experience of other Jews of color. Anyway, the service was really cool and we had this awesome discussion on King and Heschel. During the oneg, after the service, this woman comes up to me, let's just call her S. and the discussion went something like.
S: "Hi my name is S." I replied with same. "...are ya Jewish"
Me: "I'm wearing a Kippah (pause breath)...Yes I'm Jewish"
S: "Well obviously you weren't born Jewish!"
Me: "Why do you say that."
S: "Well... Because you're black!"
Me: "Well at least you're honest."
What was so surprising about this exchange was not that she asked me, was I Jewish or that she assumed I wasn't born Jewish, it's the fact that she was actually; to quote Mixedjewgirl an honest bigot. Does that mean she should get applause? No of course not, but usually when faced with these questions and I ask back, I get every conceivable tap dance that one can imagine.
I did use the opportunity as a teaching moment and quickly educated S. on the diversity of the Jewish community and the sheer numbers of Jews of color in the United States


OrthoEbonyJewess said...

I applaud you for using it as a teaching moment. I'm an African American Orthodox Jew. It is very offensive when people assume we converted. I did convert; however, my children did not. I wish people would just face the fact that their is much diversity in the Jewish community.

Fortunately, I converted Orthodox. Had I converted through the Reform or Conservative movements, I would be extremely unhappy dealing with these issues and individuals who would not consider me Jewish. I can deal with these issues better because I know that I AM Jewish regardless of what is said to me.

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Nancy said...

Your post is really nice. We seldom forget that bigotry has nothing to do with religion.

Keep writing.

This is Nancy from Israeli Uncensored News