a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Mixed Mulitudes on Pesach

Posted on: March 29, 2012

Written for the Pursue blog

The other day I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends about Passover. She’d just received an invitation to attend the seder of a perfect stranger—well, almost a perfect stranger. During a business interaction, my friend’s client, who is an identifiable Orthodox Jewish woman, noticed my friend, somewhat unidentifiable as a Jew with her dark brown skin, far-set eyes and long dreadlocks tied up in a scarf. Still, the woman looked past skin color and noticed the silver Star of David around her neck and asked her, “Are you a Jew?” My friend affirmed that she was indeed Jewish and, while the woman did try to “place” her as a Jew, she quickly invited her to her home for Passover.

As I listened to my friend tell this story, I wondered how many Jews would do something like this. In my own experience it has only been while attending Shabbat services in an Orthodox synagogue that I have been invited into a stranger’s home for Shabbat dinner–never once have I been invited into a home for Shabbat dinner in my own liberal synagogue. I find this fact a little unsettling, especially since it is considered a mitzvah to have Jews around your Shabbat and Passover table.

Of course, I make these assertions as a Jew by Choice (JBC), only seven months out of the mikvah waters. I don’t have a Jewish family and in order to have Jews around my tisch (table) I’ve had to do a lot of work reaching out to other JBCs and Jews whose families live farther than a quick train ride away. As a result, I’ve been able to learn from these Jews about their histories, their traditions, and their pasts simply by sharing a meal with them. In turn, my Jewish experience is molded and continues to be altered and remolded time and again with each of these interactions, which means that I’m able to continue to learn and experience Judaism with every Jewish experience I have–a tremendous gift.

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