a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Whirl Wind of a Week; Podcast, Noah Aronson, JFREJ, and more…oy vey!

Posted on: December 12, 2010

This is going to be one long post, but I will try to be as concise as possible without sounding like I’m rattlling off fun-facts of my previous week.  It’s probably best to start with the most recent and work my way back to last Friday, my Hanukkah party.

1.  Shabbat, this week.

I met a good friend of mine at CBE to hear my buddy Noah Aronson lead the Shabbat service.  As always, he was amazing.  We chatted before service and afterwards, I’m promised new recordings and iTunes soon.  I will keep you all posted.  If you haven’t listened to his music yet, I encourage you to do so!  If you’re in the NYC area get yourself added to the Brooklyn Jews list serve and you’ll be in the know the next time Noah leads CBE’s Shabbat. 

After what turned out to be a very interesting, inspiring, and thought-provoking D’var Torah my friend and her friend, a fellow convert-to-be went out for Chinese food.  Cliché?  Perhaps, we just really wanted fried greasy food.  I was excited to sit down next to a woman who’s going through the exact process that I’m going through but on a totally different level.  This woman is doing an Orthodox conversion and the moment she told me I was instantly fascinated and intrigued.  I asked her many questions and she had many for me but the most comforting part was that I was sitting at a table of women; one born Jew and one Jew-to-be after Shabbat and we were talking about Judaism and it’s many multi-faceted identities.  I’m excited to grow a friendship with this woman because she’s going through the conversion process at the same time as I am.  Because she spent 5 years in private study before committing to a conversion (therefore she knows far more than I do).  Because of her convictions.  Because of her passion for Torah, and for all three of us, our passion for learning Hebrew.  I’m excited to have nailed down Shabbat buddies from three different perspectives that I know I’ll learn so much from.

2. Podcast with the Jewish Forward.

On Thursday I found myself on the twisted, turning cobblestone streets of the Financial District of Manhattan.  I always forget how much I love the small winding streets, the narrow passage ways, and the very real old school New York that is the Financial District until I’m down there.  I found my way to the Forward’s office on Maiden Lane and met with a queer Jewish woman, Nadja,  for an interview/chat for the Forward’s new LGBT Podcast.  We talked for about 45 minutes about everything from my identity as a black woman, a gay woman, a Jew-to-be and everything in between.  The podcast is being edited and I hope to do more podcasts with the Forward in the future. 

I walked away feeling what only can be described as important.  Not because I thought that The Forward or Nadja for matter thought so but for the reason that I was putting a voice, name, face with what it’s like to be a Black Gay Jew.  I don’t begin to imagine that I’m the only queer Jew of Color on the planet but I am one voice.  I don’t claim to speak for all Jews by Choice, all Black women, all Queer Women because I cannot.  I’m only one woman.  On the other hand, it is great to be able to give a voice to those other Queer Jews, Jews of Color, and Jews by Choice to the broad audience of American Jewry.  It was thrilling and frightening at the same time.  I walked away excited and thinking, “should I have said that?”  or “Did that come out the way I intended it?”  “Who’s going to be pissed at me because of this?”  In the end I can only say c’est la vie.  It’s done, I’m excited, and I never waste time on regret.  On a side, but related noted, I’ll be hopefully writing for The Sisterhood.

3. Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

My buddy from Dykes on Bike-Cycles and fellow tribe member, Nikki, invited me to volunteer at the JFREJ annual awards ceremony and fundraiser.  It spent the afternoon working with a diverse lot of Queer and non-Queer Jews and learned a bit about the organization.  I’m chatting with a member of JFREJ later this week and hope to become an active member and supporter of the amazing work they do.

4.  My raging Hanukkah Party

Last Friday we had a Hanukkah Party/Shabbat Dinner for 12 of our dearest and closest friends.  The group of people were diverse ethnically, religiously, and in terms of sexual orientation-although it was pretty gay.  We made a dizzying spread of food and friends stayed way passed the light of the menorah’s blaze to dance and sing in our living room.  It was a great Shabbat dinner because we were opening our home to our friends and it was an amazing Shabbat dinner because we were celebrating Hanukkah.  Moreover, it was amazing to share the important part of our Jewish lives in an intimate way with some of the people we’re closest to.  It was a truly exceptional evening.

In personal family news my only, younger, and beloved sister has relapsed again in her drug addiction.  I’ll be taking some time away from blogging but promise to be back when I’m feeling up to it.  I will say that I’m feeling content in my Jewish spirituality in terms with coming to terms with the consequences of her actions both current and in the past.  I’d only ask that you add her to your prayers on Shabbat.

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