a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

My name is Erika Davis, and I’m an Evangelical Jew.

Posted on: November 21, 2014

First, let me just say that I really have no clue what an evangelical Christian is, really. I’m not sure if they’re the snake handling Christians or the subway (miss you, MTA) preachers. What I mean is that when someone comes to me to say that they’re thinking about converting to Judaism, I push encourage them to do so. Especially if they are a person of color.

I get about 6 emails a year from people, often people of color or LGBTQ folks, interested in converting to Judaism. They usually talk about their current Jewish experience, flack/concern they’re getting from their family members and partners, and sometimes a desire to quit trying to be a Jew. In my experience, it’s not generally a desire to quit because of the infamous three turn downs, or the length of time and commitment it takes to convert, but sometimes from self-doubt or loneliness. Can I really be a Jew and be gay? Can I really be a Jew and a person of color? Can I still be a Jew if my family doesn’t understand. Am I alienating myself from my family, friends, community if I adopt a new religion and culture?

I, of course, don’t have the answers, but I have come to realize what it must be like for these folks in a new way, living here in the Pacific Northwest. I would tell people to follow their path to Judaism, no matter what. I’d tell them my personal stories of overcoming the loneliness by immersing myself in my community. I now realize that it’s pretty hard to immerse yourself in a community, when you live in a community with limited Jewish community.

I’ve written about it before, and will continue to write about the difficulty I’ve found living in a space where the Jewish community is as present as it was back East. I’ve been reminded that being a Jew in NYC can make us complacent and lazy and I’ve been asked to think of my move as a move to a different country and not to compare NYC to Seattle. Thing is, I can’t not compare them, because being a Jew in NYC is all that I know. My expectations of the Jewish community here in Seattle aren’t to be the Jewish community back home, but I do have expectations, it’s only natural.

Tonight I’ll be taking my first venture into the Jewish community by visiting a synagogue in my neighborhood. Fingers crossed.



3 Responses to "My name is Erika Davis, and I’m an Evangelical Jew."

Evangelicals try to converts others and are quick to attempt to push their religion into politics. I don’t think that is exactly what you’re going for here 🙂

You’re right. 🙂 Maybe I’m a non-Chabad Chabadnik.

Thank you, this is great! I’m a white gay rabbinical student who is JBB/JBC both, because when I came out, I had to re-choose to be Jewish in a very affirmative way. I sometimes jokingly call myself an evangelical Jew. I don’t ever push people to convert, but I do welcome people who wish to explore Jewish belonging to whatever extent they choose. I welcome everyone unconditionally — such a simple idea, but so often not practiced. Thank you for this great blog — wow, there is a lot of important stuff here.

Also welcome to Seattle, I lived on Capitol Hill for 7.5 years though I attended Temple Beth Am in north Seattle. There is a good, warm Jewish community although it is kind of like a high school, small enough that if you’re involved, you get to know a lot of the other folks who are involved pretty quick. 🙂

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