Posted on: September 9, 2014
Today Tablet posted an article about Commandment Keepers/Hebrew Israelites/”Black Jews”
I read the first paragraph and was instantly upset, again, that another “mainstream, left-leaning” Jewish online journal was doing sloppy reporting.
I’ve written about why this is problematic a lot. Like a lot. Like, really a lot. And here’s the thing. I really don’t care about Hebrew Israelites or their claim to be or not be Jewish. I would, however, like to remind you that they’re not Jewish and that some Hebrew Israelites feel very strongly that white Jews are basically the devil, but that’s another post. I’d also like to remind everyone that whenever liberal, lefty Jewish publications write about white Messianic Jews they generally agree that they’re not Jewish, because they’re not. Jesus is all right by me, but belief in him (as the son of G-d) makes you not a Jew.
I’m also aware that when talking about race and Judaism some people (read most white people) get very … authoritative. They like to assume that they know who is and who is not Jewish simply based on how someone looks. (See also white guilt. Also white privilege.) It very much opens the door to the very sensitive topic of who is and who is not Jewish, which as a Black Jew who converted under Reform Rabbinical authority, I understand. It’s a touchy topic and having one’s Jewishness questioned really effing sucks. Of course we can turn to halacha to guide us as to who is and who is not Jewish, and since halacha is law to us Jews the answer of who is and who is not Jewish is pretty clear. It’s also pretty clear how one can become Jewish if one is not a Jew. (See also conversion).
It is not my place to say who is and who is not Jewish and I don’t think that’s why the Tablet article and articles that have been published in the past about the Commandment Keepers and their off-shoot communities is bothersome. What always bothers me is the lack of distinction between who Black Jews are and are not, but mostly about how white Jews view them/Jews of Color/Multiracial Jew/me.
What I see happening, and what I’ve personally experienced is laziness on the part of white, mainstream Judaism.
Posted on: July 23, 2014
- Qur’an 7:159
For over three weeks I’ve been sending prayers to Gaza, Israel and Palestine.
According to my Facebook and Twitter feed (which is getting thinner and thinner the more I unfriend and unfollow) it would seem that all of the problems in the world are because of the Jews (or the Arabs) depending on which banner you’re camped under. While I’m still hanging out somewhere in the middle, I find it incredibly interesting that with the rest of the horrors happening in the world people aren’t out protesting other embassies or joining rally cries against other countries, even our own.
For instance, this weekend over 700 people were killed this weekend in Syria in what activists are calling the deadliest 48 hours to date. As Syrians fight on either side of the conflict hundreds of people are dying each day. 700 people, and it’s not even a blip … because Jews aren’t involved?
Posted on: July 20, 2014
When I sat before my beit din, before going to the mikvah, one of the rabbis asked me if my views on Israel had changed. I told her that they had not; I still thought Israel was a horrible place, that Israelis were racist, that Jews were treating Palestinians like southern (and northern and western and eastern) whites treated blacks in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s (today). I even compared Israel to Nazi Germany. I was “educated” by western papers and news media outlets. I’d never met an Israeli or a Palestinian for that matter, but I had a lot of Muslim friends and felt a sort of allegiance to the people of Palestine.
All of these thoughts came to my head when she asked me if my views on Israel had changed and I answered her honestly, they had not. She then asked if I could learn to think more holistically about Israel, if I would do some learning on my own and then make a decision on how I felt. I told her I could, because I was still learning so much and that is what I did.
A few months later I found myself getting off of a plane in Israel. I looked around Ben Gurion airport, it looked the same as any other airport, but then I noticed a mezzuzah at the end of the corridor I was walking down, and another and another and it hit me, I was in a Jewish country. The only place in the world where I was with my chosen people, where the language was that of my people, where the customs were the customs of my people. I saw women in hijab looking for bags next to women in shietels and tichels. Men with large-brimmed hats and men wearing keffiyeh. As I gathered my things and looked for my Israeli friend who had opened her home to me, it all clicked. The need and right for Israel to exist.
Posted on: June 11, 2014
About two weeks ago I got an email from an AG-identified Lesbian from Jersey interested in conversion to Judaism. J asked a few questions, which I happily answered, but if you’re a queer person of color who converted to Judaism and have some pointers for J, please share them in the comments.
I’ve been following your blog for the last year in admiration and although late, I’d like to congratulate you on seeing your calling through to completion (or at least the conversion process through to completion as I don’t believe it ends there). Two weeks ago, I met with a Reform Rabbi discussing my interest in Judaism and last Friday I attended service for the first time. Outside of needing people of color the experience was awesome as they were very friendly and inviting. However is it strange that I left the service still wanting…now what am I wanting that’s still unclear. It would have been nice to see people wearing Kippot and Tallitot; it came across like a Catholic Mass. By no means should this be perceived as judgement as this was my first experience and I really didn’t know what to expect. Is it typical to only have Friday service and no Shabbat service on Saturday? I am not sure if they have morning and evening services during the week. I’ve been leaning towards attending a Conservative Synagogue however my concern is that being a black, aggressive lesbian could be an issue. You’ve mentioned in recent blogs that you’ve switched to a Conservative Synagogue. Can you speak on your experience? Do you attend Saturday services and weekday prayers? Do you wear a Kippah, Tallit or Tefillin? Do other woman wear them? How was the environment? Last, do you still feel as drawn to Judaism post-conversion or has the struggle changed things?
Posted on: June 1, 2014
Julie Geller’s version of Eishet Chayil is still my absolute favorite version of this ancient song traditionally sung by a husband (and sometimes children) to his wife to honor her role in the house. Because it comes from Torah verses, to say that it’s a bit archaic is putting it lightly. And while I absolutely love Julie’s version I really can’t imagine Mirs singing this to me and if I sang it to her, I think she might throw up her hands and run away from Jewish practice for good. (If you remember, my fiancee loves being a Jew, she just doesn’t need to do Jewish … until children, that was our agreement.) If Eishet Chayil makes it way to our big, gay, black & Jewish Shabbat table it will be sung as a family and Julie’s version will be what we sing.
But babies are still painfully far away and for now the only Woman of Valor-ness happening in my life is this amazing project by a woman called Gracey Levine from Portland who reached out to me. I get a lot of requests from people who read the blog and sadly, I can’t respond or help out with them all because of time commitments or people’s fascination with conversion as the only path towards multiracial, multi-ethnic Jewish experiences. So when Gracey simply asked to interview me for a project she’s doing portraying the lives of Jewish women of today I said yes and that I would help spread the word.
Gracey isn’t interested in exploiting Jewish women of Color, she’s not out there to ask us “how” we’re Jewish, she took a look at her project and realized that if she was going to portray Jewish women of today, that she would be remiss to not include Jewish women of Color.
Take a look at her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where you can find her planned travel itinerary. If she’s in a city near you, reach out to her and tell her I sent you.
Posted on: May 9, 2014
I’m excited about this video for a lot of reasons. Yes, the fact that I shot and edited is one of the reasons. I am, by no means, a videographer and I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out. The real reason I’m excited about it is because I’m excited about the work that JMN has done in the Jewish community for the past 17 years and I’m super excited about all of the amazing and wonderful things we have planned.
I hope you enjoy the video. Please share it far and wide and have a fabulous Shabbat!