a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

My Interview with JewSchool

Posted on: September 19, 2012

Many thanks to the amazing Chanel Dubofsky for doing this interview.


Erika Davis is the Chief of Staff at Hazon. She also works as a freelance writer for The Sisterhood, Jewcy, Kveller and others while maintaining her personal blog Black, Gay and Jewish. Erika likes Syrian Jewish cooking and is convinced she makes the best hummus in Brooklyn. She is a volunteer with Jewish Multi-Racial Network, Be’chol Lashon and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

Q: Tell us what we can find at Black, Gay and Jewish.

ED: I started to write Black, Gay and Jewish when I realized that converting to Judaism and talking about Jewish things was taking up a lot of space on my now defunct blog about lesbian  dating in NYC (I’d just come out). I started writing it as a sort of personal journal through the process of converting to Judaism and also because there was only one other blog penned by a black, gay and Jewish woman. (This isn’t to say that there weren’t awesome blogs out there about conversion; there are so many that it  boggles the mind. A few are written by gay Jews and by Jews of Color, but rarely did I find anything on the web that had all three.)

Because I wrote it as a sort-of online journal, it’s filled with a lot of personal stories-everything from my first time in a synagogue right up to my conversion story and mikvah experience. I write a lot about the intersection of race and similarities between the black American experience and Judaism. I also write about race in Judaism because it’s thought to be a sort of new phenomenon as well as racism within Judaism. When the URJ put out their New York Survey and the last section was about the racial diversity in NYC, it was as if this idea of ethnic Judaism is something new, that  having Jews who were “non-white” in our midst was something newsworthy, when in fact the study and the findings were insulting because Jews have always been multi-racial.

Now that I’ve converted to Judaism, I’ve been focusing on education. I’m helping with a diversity curriculum that we hope will be a game-changer, I’m planning on interviewing Jews who are making changes in Judaism.I want to use the blog as a home base for education. I’ve been working behind the scenes to organize the blog better and hope to start rolling out the Jewish Geography Project after Simchat Torah to coincide with the weekly Torah portions.I started it  a few months ago that I’m re-launching after Simchat Torah. Basically I go through the Bible and when a land mass is mentioned I write it down in my notebook. I then Google the modern-day equivalent in order to track the migration of the Jewish people. We’ve started in what is modern-day Nigeria and when I stopped the project we were in Iraq. The fact that Jews are seen in one way: White, Ashkenazi and from New York in such a way that the idea of a Jew being plain ole’ black (i.e. not from Ethiopia or Nigeria) or Mexican or Indian or Chinese for that matter is strange, odd or new is more than insulting, it’s completely inaccurate. Yet, most Jews only see Jews through an Ashkenazi or Sephardi lens. I’ll be adding videos to the blog, interviews, and going around NYC talking about Judaism to folks on the street. I’m excited for the next year.


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