a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Ask Erika: What If I’m More Drawn to Islam?

Posted on: June 5, 2013

Me in a hijibAs is quite evident by my blog, my Facebook and Twitter likes, and previous posts I have so much love, honor and reverence for Islam. It is partially due to the fact that Islam is so similar to Judaism in religion, language, customs and food, but also to do with the fact that like Christianity, it’s an Abrahamic┬áreligion. If I didn’t need to make money and could spend my life as an eternal student, I would love to not only study and get advanced degrees in Judaism, but also in Islam and Christianity. Perhaps this will one day happen.

As part of my personal religious discovery I considered Islam as a possible faith for me. I studied it briefly in high school and often looked at my Muslim friends completely in awe of their faith, especially in light of the recent Islamophobia in the United States. Of course, I chose Judaism and while my religious vigor is going through an ebb and flow, I’m happy and confident that I made the right decision.

So when a long-time BG&J reader emailed me last week to confide that she was considering Islam, I wasn’t surprised. Below is our email exchange.

Hi Erika,

I haven’t spoken to you in a while but I’ve been keeping up with your blog. I’ve been having some disconnect with Judaism as of late. And read you were too. My thing is I keep looking into Islam. I have a question for you, how did you know Judaism was the your right fit? My heart is also heavy with everything going on in the Jewish news, the treatment of people, as well as always having to be questioned about how, why, and how come I am a Jew. Somethings shouldn’t matter but its starting to feel like a battle between my race and the people of God. with Islam It’s always been that i could also blend in well too. sorry for the ramble.

I am just having a hard time with Judaism the faith, and the people.

Best,

J

*You should note that J is a woman of color and has not yet been to mikvah. She’s been very committed to learning and studying about Judaism and is in the process of conversion. Below is my response to her.

Hi J-

I’m so glad to hear from you!

I would honestly say-do what’s best for you. Only you know what will be, is, or is not a good fit for you. I think it’s definitely hard to separate my Jewishness from the broader Jewish world. I’ve come to realize that being Jewish is a choice, whether you’ve converted or not. I have to make the choice to go to shul or not. I have to make the choice to live according to Jewish ideals or not. I have to determine what aspects of Judaism I’m open to and those that I’m closed to. I’ve also realized that while so much of Judaism, especially in the Orthodox and more observant communities, are very community-focused, much of the secular/liberal Jewish world is individualist. It’s hard to find a niche or group where you can be yourself while being actively and purposefully Jewish.

In my opinion there will always be stupid, racist, bigoted people in every faith, they’ve always been there and will always be there.

I forgot, have you been to the mikveh yet?

Best,

Erika

__

Hi Erika thanks for the reply, I haven’t been to the mikveh yet, as I’m just trying to figure things out. I still do feel very Jewish it’s just a lot going on that makes you go “hmm” and the constant questioning ones Jewishness that discourages me.

-J

__

J-

I totally get that. And as a “good Jew” I can only say to do what’s best for you. If you’re feeling a pull towards Islam, by all means explore that. Go to a masjid, learn about prayer, life, etc.

I am continually fascinated by Islam, it’s amazing how similar the two religions are down the the people, traditions, food, and traditional gender roles and dress. I’d love to learn Arabic right along with learning Hebrew and I think both religions have much to remember/learn about the other.

 

If you’d like to ask me a question send it to blackgayandjewish@gmail.com

 

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