a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

My Big Jewish Idea

Posted on: October 26, 2011

I’ve hinted at it for a while and I’ve told a few people, including my favorite rabbi.  After thinking hard about it, I’ve decided to share because maybe you know the right people.  Maybe you know a space we could gather or have an idea for someone who wants to sit on a panel. 

Last year I went to the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale to listen to a panel of frum lesbians discuss their lives, their struggles, and finally to ask for their communtity’s assistance in accepting their children.  I walked away from the panel inspired and thought, this could be more.  It doesn’t have to be just this one panel, it should be every month with the goal of creating diverse, inclusive, aware communities that are in consistent communication within itself and within the broader Jewish community.  After spending the weekend with Be’chol Lashon over Sukkot the fire was again sparked and it’s been a drive to get this idea off the ground.  So, I’m sharing my Big Jewish Idea with you.  It’s a rough draft of an idea, not a proposal just yet, still working out the kinks.  Just my ideas finally out of my head and on the web.  What do you think? 

Jewish Diversity Panel
Groups of Jews to participate : LGBTQ Jews, Converts to Judaism, Blended/Interfaith Families, Adopted Jews or Parents who have adopted, Black/Bi-Racial Jews, Asian/Indian Jews, Immigrant Jews, Jews with Disabilities, Chasidic Jews, Hebrew Israelites, Cross-Faith Panel (a Rabbi, an Iman, a Pastor), South American/Latino Jews
Ideally a monthly panel discussion with a moderator, and 3-5 panelists who bring their stories, things that work in their communities, and things that need work in their communities to the broader community.
Create a community between different groups of Jews by building bridges, linking connections and celebrating the diversity and similarities between groups of Jews.
Create a community of people who would ideally frequent the panel discussions, arming them with knowledge, information, and resources to bring back to their home communities and hopefully, encourage the people in their communities to come to future panels.
Create a better understanding of the ways in which synagogue, JCC, and neighborhoods operate and ways in which they separate or keep out Jews who are “different”.  IE-helping them examine their school applications so that it says “Parents” rather than “Mother” and “Father”
Create Change
Change the way the Jewish community sees itself
Change the way we think about people hood to celebrate and acknowledge the different people who make up the Jewish people
Change the materials that are used to teach our children in synagogues, schools and Jewish community centers so that the pictures illustrated, the family dynamics, the food on the table reflects the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity within the broader Jewish community
Change the way that we think of Tikkun Olam so that the repair that we are making repairs the judgements, stereotypes, and prejudices we harbor because of ignorance
Change that we think of the saying “Welcome the Stranger” so that it includes welcoming the people who feel like strangers within our own communities because of differences that are ignored rather than celebrated.
Panelist Ideas
There are a few people on my radar who I could ask to be on the panel, many of them are friends or acquaintances that I know.  I’m thinking super grass roots, super small scale, sort of like the Thursday night cholent group that meets here in NYC.  Donated space, donated booze, really low-key and homey. But with a really powerful impact.

If you haven’t voted yet for me as Jewish Community Hero, now would be a great time to vote.  You can vote every 24 hours until November 10th.

3 Responses to "My Big Jewish Idea"

There’s a lady here in the Bay Area you should get in contact with. She’s lead panels on Black, Asian, and I want to say Queer Jews this fall/winter as part of her work with her group Building Jewish Bridges. She might be able to provide some insight. Here’s a website mentioning the Black and Asian events: http://buildingjewishbridges.org/?page_id=224

I know exactly who you’re talking about. We’re cyber friends and she’s given me some really great pointers. I’m so jealous that I’m not in the Bay Area right now because I’d love to sit in on one. Are you in the area?

Sounds amazing!! I can’t wait to hear more about it. Let me know if you want support from a queer christian minister! 😀

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