Posted on: May 14, 2013
Last night while making dinner with my lovely lady.
Me:I’m feeling really disconnected to Judaism lately. I think I’ll go to Shavuot services tomorrow night to reconnect.
Her:You do realize the Knicks are playing tomorrow night, right?
Posted on: May 8, 2013
For the past five weeks I’ve been spending Shabbat with three Muslim women, one Rastafarian, two other women of color and one sweet white girl in a small space in Bedstuy. Ancient Song Doula Services, the practice I’ve been learning with, is focused on training women as color as doulas and educating women in the community about birth and the birthing process.
In this time we’ve shared intimate details of our life, we’ve shared food, we’ve held babies and we’ve been learning about the birthing process and the role of a doula in that process. I’ve started a website for my practice-Kevanah Doula-Birthing with Intention-and am currently looking for Imas willing to have a doula-in-training attend their birth.
If you or someone you know in the Manhattan, Brookly, or Bronx (maybe Queens) is expecting, please send them my way.
Posted on: May 7, 2013
Tonight I will be speaking to a group of potential converts at the synagogue I converted through. I’ve been asked to think about my conversion experience and the time that has since past and as a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about the last (Jewish) year.
Confession-I haven’t been to synagogue since Rosh Hashanah.
I’ve hosted a handful of Shabbat dinners and attended a few. We hosted Passover again this year (21 ppl this year). I joined a friend for her conversion ceremony and then another friend and I witnessed my first bris (more on that later). I pray in the morning and pray at night…but…
It’s not that I don’t feel Jewish, I do, I just don’t have a synagogue community that I’m in love with right now.
My go-to synagogue is great only when my favorite song leader is there. He’s a proud new papa and we’re coming into Spring…when Jews take a hiatus and make for the mountains. So I’m searching…for a community, for a synagogue, for that nudge to get me back before a bimah.
Posted on: April 15, 2013
From Compassion to Endurance
This week of the Omer we transition from week three to week four, from compassion to endurance. It’s a fitting transitional phase because it has been my experience that one cannot exist without the other. In order to be truly compassionate people we must have the endurance to do so.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this transition of the Omer and thinking about my life and ways that my compassion has and has not endured and inevitably my mind goes back to October of 2012 when Super Storm Sandy devastated much of the shoreline of Queens, New Jersey and Staten Island. Like thousands of people I was catapulted into action and spent days in the cold weather, in the dark delivering food, water and supplies to people affected by the storm. Even as the subway stations roared to life I remained in The Far Rockways for another day. I suppose you could say that compassion drove me to endure.
I returned to work and had what I can only describe as a crisis of faith. Working in Jewish non-profit I sometimes have the naïve idea that our work is supposed to change the world, that we’re to live our values of tikkunolam-that we’re supposed to make a difference. How could I make a difference sitting in an office before a computer?
Posted on: April 10, 2013
I’ve been lucky, my current circle of friends are an amazing bunch of folks from a wide variety of races, ethnicities, sexual orientation and gender presentation. I think it’s because of this diversity that they’re aware of privilege; both the privilege they have and the privilege they don’t have. It’s been a long while since I’ve heard really offensive things out of the mouth of my friends, but have lots of memories of not-so-exciting comments. Unlike Crystal, when I was compared me to a celebrity (presumably this stranger’s only black person of reference) it was Oprah. Not that there’s anything wrong with Lady O. I’d take her over Beyonce any day!
This was back in 1998 when I was drinking away my freshmen year at the University of Dayton. I was at a house party in the “ghetto”, Dayton’s student neighborhood, drinking with my ballerina friend. A drunk guy came up to me and slurred something about me reminding him of Oprah and my ballerina friend, as quick as a whip, said, “Why because she’s black!?” Then to me, “Geez, does he not know any other black women?”
No. No, apparently he didn’t.
Since growing out my hair I’ve gotten several requests to touch my it, I used to have guys tell me that they’ve never been with a black woman, but haven’t gotten as much subtle racism lately-except if you count people accusing me of being a self-hating Jew for calling our issues of race and racism within Judaism…but that’s another story. Reading Crystal Sykes’ (hey Crystal I want to be your friend!) piece this morning made me smile.
I smiled because I was amused: “[Fill in with something about chicken.]” But chicken is so good!
I smiled because I I could relate: “You know, Crystal, you’re black, but you’re not black black.” Heard that before.
I’ve shared it on Facebook and Twitter and it’s gotten a few shares so far. I didn’t think I needed to preface it with, “Thank Gd I don’t have friends like this” because I hope my friends, my real friends, know that. For the folks who wonder Have I said that to Erika (or any other black woman)? Hopefully they’ve learned something.
Posted on: April 9, 2013
Hello to all of my faithful readers!
It’s officially spring weather here in NYC. The highs are due to reach into the 70′s and I left the house without a jacket. People are drinking iced coffees and wearing flats with no tights. I thought it was a good time to get back into the swing of things in terms of writing, but feel it’s only natural to do some catching up.
I’ve actually been doing a great deal of writing, just not here. I’ve written several pieces for The Sisterhood and The Forward that were received with chilly, anti-semitic, hateful and sometimes really awful response. There were really thoughtful, kind and encouraging responses as well. I’ve also been writing for Jewniverse as well as a cameo on a Tablet Piece. I will be writing more here soon. Promise.
2-Life and Such
Life is a blessing, you know? Even when it’s hard and filled with unexpected bumps along the way. I’m trying to be mindful of the fact that life in and of itself is a blessing. Things with the lady are going really well. Our cats are good and our apartment is good. We’re happy to not have to move to NOLA, though we loved it down there. Depending on what happens with DOMA who knows. We’re currently sprouting some lettuces, kale and tomatoes for our porch garden. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger and Tumblr to stay connected.
Oh, Judaism, how I love you so. When I came back with a cross post a few weeks ago someone commented that they feared I’d walked away from it all and was glad to see me back here. I’ve definitely not turned away from Judaism, on the contrary I’m immersed in it all of time time at work! It’s been so much a part of my life that finding my way to synagogue has waned a bit, though I’m not sure Judaism needs to be contained within four walls. It is, after all, all around us, no? Gd’s love and beauty is in the air I breath, in the sun on my skin and occupying the thoughts in my head. I talk to Gd all of the time and patiently wait to hear Gd’s voice talk back.
So that’s where I am. What have you been up to?
Posted on: April 4, 2013
Remembering Dr. King
Had Dr. King lived he would be 84 today.
The connection between Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is one that I learned of during my conversion process. When only one month a year is given to Black History, certain events are sure to be left out. While my parents did an amazing job sharing their personal insights and memories of the Civil Rights movement, much of my learning happened while studying Black History in college. Still, it wasn’t until I started studying Judaism that I learned about the partnership between King and Heschel.
On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King opened his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York City by welcoming Rabbi Heschel.
Passover, Easter and the Jehovah’s Witness at My Door
I’ve never given much thought to Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also have a knack for avoiding them on the streets of New York as easily as I can dodge canvassers in Union Square. I don’t open my door for them, and after dating an ex “Jdub” I was pretty sure they were a religious group I just couldn’t quite understand.
All that changed this past Saturday. I was waiting for deliveries from Fresh Direct, FedEx and USPS and, when the doorbell rang, I flew down the stairs and flung open the door expecting to see a courier. Instead, a girl about seven or eight years old reached into her purse and pulled out a pamphlet with an earnest looking, fair-skinned, long-haired drawing of Jesus on the cover below the words “Watch Tower.”
I’d opened the door for Witnesses.
“Hello,” she said, smiling. “We’d like to talk to you about our savior’s resurrection.”
Posted on: March 28, 2013
There’s something incredibly powerful about stepping, a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken words and hand claps. These rhythmic stomping and beats can have a profound effect on the listener as well as the stepper. I should know; I grew up in a household where stepping was the norm.
My father, an active member of a national black fraternity often had brothers over, especially during pledging. Some of my favorite memories are the sounds of combat boots on the pavement that would lure me out of the house and into our back yard. I’d watch with the young men currently on line (pledges) as members of the frat stepped and chanted. Stepping is ancient. It’s culture. It’s a history that lives in the people and communities who make step a part of their lives.
An American Jewish World Service AJWS event was the last place I expected to see stepping, but last week night at the Green Space I experienced the familiar rhythm that puts my mind at ease as much as it screams, WAKE UP! The event, held in conjunction with Global Circle, featured the amazing ensemble Girl Be Heard, a multi-ethnic, youth-led organization that uses theater, song and step to empower girls to write about and overcome violence, gender discrimination, poverty, lack of opportunity and rape as a weapon of war. The performance included 19 original pieces which started with Tikkun Olam, a piece written and performer Monica Furman, a Jewish women living in Brighton Beach.
Posted on: March 18, 2013
I promise to start blogging again more regularly after Pesach. Until then, some thoughts on the situation with the YU rabbi.
From the Jewish Daily Forward:
I am lucky to have never heard the word nigger used towards me. As a black woman in the United States this is rare, even rarer since I spent the majority of my childhood summers in rural North Carolina with my mother’s family.
I have vivid memories of riding in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck, red dirt kicking up in clouds behind us. I also remember my cousins telling us to get down in areas where the Klan was known to harass black people. Having no real context for what this meant I followed suit and made my body small and flat against on the floor of the truck’s bed. This happened a few times in my summers in the south, but still I had no experience with the word other than in books.
The first time I heard the N-word used in anger was on a New York subway coming out of the mouth of an Asian teenager a few months ago. He and his mother boarded the crowded train at Canal Street just as an older black man pushed his way onto the train and into the seat the mother was about to take. I was equally annoyed that this man rudely took the seat of an elderly passenger. But I quickly noticed by his erratic gestures that he was mentally ill.
Posted on: January 24, 2013
This Saturday we’re celebrating the New Year for Trees, Tu B’shvat (Tu Beeshvat, Tu Bishvat).
If you’re in NYC and want to nosh on some yummy food and sip on some wine join me for Hazon’s annual event, Pinot and Pomegranate. See you there!