Posted on: November 12, 2016
Dear White People,
Yes, all of you. I need you to do something. I need you to sit in your discomfort of this black woman saying that you (yes, you) are going to be okay.
In your white skin you can and have lived with a world of privilege. You can walk down the street and no one will clutch their purse or walk on the other side for fear of you.
In your white skin you can get a cab at any time of the day or night in any city anywhere in the country.
In your white skin you can look at expensive purses, watches, jewelry (or shop at the local Old Navy) without looks of suspicion or be followed.
In your white skin you can sit at a lunch table with people who look like you.
In your white skin you can watch any television show, movie, commercial and see your face. You can pick up a magazine and your face will be on the cover, faces in the advertisements will mirror your own.
In your white skin you can walk into Duane Reade or Walgreens or CVS and find makeup that will match your skin and hair products that will wash and style your hair. You can walk into any salon and you will get your hair done.
In your white skin you can send your child to any school and not worry that they’ll be the only one that looks like them. You can read your child any book and your child will see their face. You can buy any toy, any baby doll at any big chain or small town toy store and your child will see their face.
In your white skin you can go to any doctor any where and the doctor will not prejudge you, your health, your weight simply by looking at you and before reading your chart.
In your white skin you can turn in a term paper and it will not be assumed that you have plagiarized it.
In your white skin you can attend an elite preschool, grade school, prep school, high school, university and no one will assume you got in on scholarship or because of your white skin. Your professors will not question your place there or patronize you.
In your white skin you will not be disadvantaged at an interview before the first handshake.
In your white skin as your possible anger, fear, frustration over this election subsides and life continues as it did before you will be able to laugh with the late night television hosts about the buffoonery of the asshat who is the president elect. You may not hesitate to hold your partner’s hand when you walk down the street. You may not hesitate walking alone at night in your neighborhood. You will go out to dinner, to the movies, to PTA and your life will be as it has before because of your white skin.
In your white skin it will be business as usual by the end of this week. For many, it already is.
In your white skin you can marvel at the new Red Cups at Starbucks, wonder what’s for dinner, make plans for the holidays.
In your white skin you can already sleep. Or as someone told me yesterday at Yoga Teacher Training, “already start to feel better!”
In your white skin you can let your kid play on the street without worry.
In your white skin you can pump gas without being harassed. You can go into your place of worship and not find it vandalized.
In your white skin you can wear proclamations of your faith (a crucifix, perhaps) and not want/need to hide it.
In your white skin history books tell your story, the line of white presidents returns.
In my black skin this is not possible. It’s not possible for my sisters in hijab. It is not possible for my brothers who wear turban. It is not possible for my gender queer and gender non-conforming friends of color. It is not possible from anyone with brown skin.
So, white people. Yes, all white people. You have a responsibility to yourself, your children, your family and your community to NOT let yourself fall back into your life.
You have a responsibility to teach your children, your family, your community that the work doesn’t end because your life returns to normal. You have the responsibility to talk about issues of race and racism and hatred and sexism and rape culture and xenophobia and bigotry and bullying and Islamophobia, and antisemitism and misogyny with your children and the MODEL that these are things you do not stand for.
You have the responsibility to check in with your black and brown and queer and disabled friends next week, next month, next year and the weeks, months and years that follow.
You have the responsibility to act with your wallet and donate to funds that help people of color, women, children, undocumented citizens who will live in hell for four years.
You have a responsibility to continue to be angry, scared, worried. You have a responsibility to ACT when you see discrimination, when you see white normative dominance in your life. You have a responsibility to speak out against racial, ethnic and religious injustice. You have the responsibility to work.
Your job for the next four years, if you are truly heartbroken at the result of this election, to consider what it would be like to give up your white skin and all of the privileges that come with it. You cannot do this, obviously. There’s no way for you to wake up black tomorrow. But, you do owe it to all the rest of us to consider it. And you owe it to yourself and the rest of us to never forget how you felt on Wednesday morning; that fear, that anger, that terror, because we can’t.
We never have.
Posted on: November 9, 2016
A wise man said that during his election and I will admit that having a Black man sitting as President in these United States for the last 8 years I have been complacent. It is a historic fact that our country is rooted in genocide, slavery, bigotry, racism, segregation and sexism. Having a Black man with Kenyan roots and an African name as our President led to an existence of rose-colored glasses.
I am continually horrified by the militarized policing of black and brown bodies and the hundreds of deaths that result in the police whose duty is to protect and serve. But the police weren’t bothering me, or my immediate family. Even when it was close, it was happening over there.
And today, after a second fretful night of sleeping, I wake up to a nation where over half of my “fellow” Americans have voted for a man who ran on a platform of bigotry, misogyny, hatred, fear and Islamophobia. This man who has been sued multiple times for racial discrimination, who has several pending sexual assault charges and child rape charges. A man who publicly boasted sexually assaulting women and then defended his words. A man who said publicly that women who have abortions should be punished and that Planned Parenthood should be de-funded. A man who mocked a disabled person and called our Vets weak for having PTSD. A man who has insulted women and reporters and anyone who stood in his way. A man who wants to ban all Muslims from entering out country and wants to ID and track those who already live here. A man who called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers and who intends to build a wall and start mass deportations. A man who wants to repeal a health plan that covers millions of Americans who were denied coverage. A man who wants to repeal Federal Marriage Equality, thus taking away my freedom. A man who the KKK endorsed will be the president of the United States.
He’s not my president. A president is meant to unite the people, to bring them together, to celebrate differences and see them as beneficial. A president is meant to bring us into the future, not catapolt us into the past.
Last night my wife and I talked about what to do next. We could visit our family in Switzerland and stay for four years. We’re Jews, maybe we could make aliyah. The Canadian boarder is a few hours drive from our house.
In the end we’ve decided that we need to fight and I’m scared for my life. I’m physically exhausted and have cried violently and desperately. I worry for my family living in a state that turned Red with Hate. I worry for my parents who lived this before I was born. I worry for my wife and I and the children we want to have. I worry for my Muslim brothers and sisters and my undocumented brothers and sisters. As I walked to my car this morning I worried it would be vandalized, our house targeted. I wanted to take my Hillary sticker off of my car to avoid being targeted and possibly harassed, but I left it on and I’m wearing a pin today.
My Ancestors who fled ancient lands in the Middle East and the pogroms and Hilter’s regime, my Ancestors who were brought here in chains, those who fought in the Civil War for their freedom, those who fought for the right to vote and gave their blood, their sweat, their tears, their lives for me to be able to proudly and loudly proclaim myself as a black, gay, Jewish woman require me to act now. I’m ashamed at my complacency, that it took this for me to feel the urge to act. But that urge is a raging fire burning in the tears that stream down my face.
The path has been laid by black and brown bodies long gone and those who experienced the History I learned of in school books, my job now is to follow that path and forge new ones. I’m lacing up my boots and dusting of a black leather jacket. I’m picking out my ‘fro and raising my fist. I’m heading to volunteer, to organize, to give of my money, my time, my body because the next four years will require a fight from us all. It will require us to lift one another up, to stand shoulder to shoulder and to look hatred in the eye.
I am afraid.
And I’m ready to go.
Posted on: October 30, 2016
A friend I made at Pardes posted the “Food for Thought” (pictured above) on Facebook today and I thought (and commented) wouldn’t it be great if shuls passed these out for JOCs and Multiracial Jewish families? And instead of waiting for a shul to maybe do it, I thought I’d create one myself.
If you’re a member of a congregation, feel free to copy and amend this for your community’s individual needs.
At Congregation X our Mission Statement states that we’re an open, inclusive and diverse community, but it’s come to our attention that not all of our congregants feel welcomed in our synagogue. Here are some ideas about how more long-term and established congregants can live our Mission Statement and be more open and welcoming to our members and their families.
Avoid Saying: Are you Jewish?
Why: Let’s presume that if they’re in shul on Shabbat that they are Jewish. And if they’re not, why is it so important? Just avoid asking this all together.
Say Instead: What did you think of the service today?
Avoid Saying: Are you new here?
Why: They may have been attending here for years and you just may not have met them. Saying this may imply that you don’t think they belong here.
Say Instead: I don’t think we’ve met yet. My name is …
Avoid Saying: Did you convert?
Why: By asking someone who is a Jew of Color or member of a Mulitracial Jewish family if they’ve converted assumes that because they do not look like you that they’re not “really Jewish”. If you want to know more about them, ask a more sincere question.
Say Instead: Will I see you next week?
Avoid Saying: Do you know X, they’re also Asian. Or anything of the sort.
Why: Because two people share the same ethnic or racial background doesn’t necessarily mean that they know each other. It also can make someone feel as though you are singling them out for being a Jew of Color, which can be uncomfortable.
Say Instead: I’m so glad to have met you today! This is my daughter/son, …
What am I missing? Post your additions in the comments below!
Posted on: October 11, 2016
An Unetaneh Tokef for Black Lives:
In our hearts it is written, and on the streets it is sealed:
Who shall live, and who shall die
Who with hands up, who holding his ID;
Who while selling ciggies, who peddling CDs;
Who in cold blood, who by chokehold.
In the law books it is written, and in the courthouse it is sealed:
Who with a wallet, who with a BB gun;
Who in a project stairs, who in a police van;
Who in a parked car, who at the local bar;
Who with broken brake light, who on his wedding night.
Who while running away, who in an alleyway.
On the day of birth it is written, and on the day of death it is sealed:
Who a born suspect, who called derelict;
Who labeled predator, who forever debtor;
Who in a classroom of despair, who denied healthcare;
Who in cellblock clatter, whose black life still doesn’t matter.
In truth You are the Judge,
The Exhorter, the All knowing, the Witness,
Who Inscribes and Seals.
So why can’t tefilah and teshuvah and tzedakah
Make a damn difference
Posted on: October 7, 2016
I’m so excited to see that popular Jewish paper and online source, The Jewish Week is covering Jews of Color this week! It’s always great to see Jews of Color getting more press and Gd willing, we’ll no longer need these “Special” pieces. But until that time comes, I’m happy to see it!
According to Chava Shervington, president of the Jewish Multiracial Network, a nonprofit that works to advance and empower Jews of color and multiracial families, the past few years mark a sea change in the conversation about race in the Jewish community. She discussed the issue with The Jewish Week in May, during the largest-ever Jews of Color conference in Manhattan.
“JMN members used to have to light themselves on fire to gain entry to mainstream Jewish organizations,” she said, referring to the difficulty Jews of color have had getting recognition in such forms as funding and leadership roles at communal organizations. “Now that the Jewish community is interested in people’s personal stories, we’re asking them to take that next step. The inclusion and empowerment of Jews of color is essential to the community we are, and to the community we are increasingly becoming.”
Interest in the broader Jewish community about the experience of Jews of color has been bolstered by a number of recent studies indicating that Jews of color make up a larger percentage of the American Jewish community than previously thought.
Read the rest here!
Posted on: September 20, 2016
I have so much to say about this, but for now I’m going to cross post this piece that is more eloquent than anything I could muster right now.
If you can’t see based on this, the countless others who have died at the hands of police in the last 3-5 years, the countless anonymous blacks who lost their lives in Jim Crow South, the thousands of slaves without names or identities tossed aside like trash, the thousands of Africans that lost their lives while being transported across the Atlantic Ocean. If you can’t see this foundation of hatred our country is based on and the ways in which it is constantly perpetuated each day and in the daily lives of Black Americans, then you can kindly see yourself off of this site.
#BlackLivesMatter And we shouldn’t have to keep saying. it.
Posted on: August 17, 2016
Five years ago today I became a Jew.
It seems like forever ago and like I’ve been Jewish my whole life.
I have fond memories of Christmas, enjoyed getting new Cabbage Patch dolls for Easter, Jesus is alright with me, but being Jewish fills my neshema, my soul. It’s who I am and it’s hard to remember my life before Judaism.
My last week in Jerusalem, one of my absolutely favorite people, one of my soul friends at Pardes told me they had something special planned for Tuesday. The school schedule was a trip to Mount Hertzel and another option I’ve forgotten already, but we planned on skipping and enjoying some precious alone time before I left. The original plan was to go to Tel Aviv, but when they called me to tell me about a well important to women of the Quran, New Testament and Torah I said yes.
The three of us piled into a cab and went for a twenty minute drive to the town of Ein Kerem to a well known as Mary’s Spring (The Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Miriam). We stepped tentatively 150 feet down into the earth via an iron ladder in desperate need of re-welding to the comforting cool of an ancient well. The Spring is a tourist destination and is beautiful, but a little known fact is that tucked away behind the man-made spring that pilgrims go to to wash is an ancient well hidden in the trees. And in that well, next to two of my soul friends, I received from them blessings of love, fertility, joy, continued learning and friendship. I immersed in the frigid waters of the not-kosher mikvah and I gave myself a Hebrew middle name – רוח. It’s not a traditional Hebrew name, in fact I don’t think I know a single person with רוח as their first or middle name, but it spoke to me and it’s what I wanted to take with me.
רוח or Ruach in English means Spirit, specifically Divine Spirit. It was רוח that was filled within my neshema in Jerusalem, it was רוח that inspired my learning and it was רוח that allowed me to love completely two people who were, only three weeks before we entered that well, together strangers.
So my Hebrew name, in English is, Daughter of G-d Spirit. Which I think is perfect. Happy 5th Jewish birthday to me!