a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Navigating Modesty as a Liberal, Queer Jew

Posted on: June 14, 2013

Me in Jerusalem 2012 -Photo is Property of Erika DavisI’ve written about modesty, sexual harassment, hair covering, Jewish hair, black hair, my hair for a while. In the first of a two-part series about modesty vis-a-vis street harassment I talked a bit about how and why I cover my hair for The Sisterhood.

When people ask what kind of a Jew I am, I tend to answer, “just Jewish.” It’s easier than explaining the Refoconservadox-style of Judaism I practice, and by that I mean that I pray in Conservative synagogue, keep what some would call eco-kosher (which does not abide by any halachic standard for kashrut) and wear pants and tank tops as often as I wear skirts that cover my knees. I’ve often described my way of moving within the different denominations of Judaism as wrapping myself in the traditions that speak the most to me, which is interesting when contemplating how, when and why I wrap my hair.

Whenever I think of the similarities between Jewish women and black women, hair is always high on my list. Like many black women, I relaxed mine for years. Seven years ago I stopped chemically straightening it, allowing it to grow in its natural coiling, zig-zagging state. I love my hair — most of the time — and when I don’t, I wrap it in a scarf.

Wrapping my hair is less about covering it and more about putting something on my head as a physical reminder of greater spiritual power. I don’t think my hair is particularly sexual or that it’s a private thing between my partner and me, but I’m admittedly intrigued by the religious significance of married women covering their hair. Something about wearing a scarf paired with a long skirt just makes me feelmore Jewish.

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/178203/dressing-modestly-and-my-black-jewish-hair/#ixzz2WDjJHY4K

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