Posted on: March 30, 2011
I love when Jews say that to me. To be fair, the life as a Jew of Color has been pretty amazing lately. Random people have noticed my necklace and wished me Good Shabbos on Shabbat. I talked to a woman the other day at work about how she was using a dish intended for escargot or scampi as a Seder Plate because it had the perfect amount of spaces, and I have a non-Jew interested in coming to my Pesach dinner, as well as many Jewish friends.
There’s always one, though. Why is it always that one that sticks?
There are 19 days until Pesach and I’m in deep Pesach mode. We’ve finalized when we’re holding our Seder, night two. I’m working on the menu and I’ve just about finished the guest list. This person, who is a Jew with pretty lazy observance, asked what I’d be serving at my Seder. I told him I wasn’t quite sure yet but I knew that there would be lamb. He then turns his nose up and shakes his head saying, “you can’t serve lamb at Passover” Funny, there’s a lamb bone on the plate and in temple times there was a paschal lamb. Not to mention that the Angel of Death passed over the homes of Jews during the last plague because of the lamb’s blood. I amused him, though, and asked why he felt lamb couldn’t be served for Pesach. He didn’t have a definitive answer except to say that it’s not what you eat on Passover. Then sealed the deal (and an invite to my passover table) by saying no one in his family would eat lamb.
Wow. Huge statement, right? Not everyone likes lamb. I realize this and it’s why I’ll have a fish option and another meat option. But to say that no Jew eats lamb on Pesach is absurd. Surely the Jews of ancient Israel were eating lamb and Jews in the Middle East today eat lamb. According to the Pesach menus suggested in my 3 Sephardic/Israeli cookbooks there are Jews today that eat lamb for Pesach. I will be one of them.
This girl. Erika. This black Jew loves Middle Eastern food. I love Sephardic food. It makes me happy, it tastes good, it’s full of flavor and spice and saucy goodness. I don’t prefer Ashkenazi food. And this is where I always get a little annoyed by some Ashkenazi Jews and their rigid views of what is and is not Jewish.
Just for claification. Here are a list of things that are definitely not Jewish-
Jesus (as God’s son)
Bacon (even though it tastes good)
The New Testament
On the contrary, things that are Jewish are vast and varied based on location, culture, and tradition. One of the reasons that my connection to Judaism is heavily leaned towards the spiritual and religious aspect as opposed the culture of Judaism is because some people cannot get past the fact that their Jewish culture is not the Jewish culture.
Any high school student and probably most grammar school students can give you the definition of culture. From the Merriman-Webster Free Dictionary online: 5b the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time.
My culture is black while my religion is Jewish. This is not to say that the two cannot coexist but to some Jews that I meet whose culture differs from my own, it becomes an issue of I’m wrong and they are right. It has become so frequent that I’ve gotten used to it, which is bullshit. As a rule, I don’t put up with bullshit so instead of keeping closed mouthed I told this person that while their Jewish culture differed quite drastically from mine, I would be serving lamb at my Seder table and that my Seder would be Jewish. Middle-Eastern and Sephardic with hints of Ashkenazi and African American stables but most definitely Jewish.
The beauty of Judaism is that while there is Jewish Tradition in the Holidays, in Mitzvot, in Torah the culture of Judaism is what you make it. My culture as a new Jew will be fused with my partner’s Ashkenazi and Southern culture. Moreover, I LIKE MIDDLE EASTERN FOOD! It’s my house. It’s my seder and I’ll serve what I want!