a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Who is a Jew of Color?

Posted on: February 19, 2015

PopChassidA few years ago I sent out a tweet looking for Jews of Color for a project I wanted to pursue. I got a Twitter response from Elad Nehori, the author of one of my favorite blogs, Pop Chassid. He asked, I think I’m a Jew of Color, am I? And I replied, if you think you’re a person of Color, and identify as such in the world, then you’re a Jew of Color. He published a piece down the line about how his skin color always makes him feel like an other which you should read. Feeling like an other simply for the color or hue of your skin, is a good indication that you are a Jew of Color.

Specifically speaking, a Jew of Color is someone who in non-Jewish environments would be considered a person of Color. Someone who is black, African American, bi-racial, Asian, Indian, Latin or of bi-racial or multi-ethnic heritage. While Mizrahi Jews and Sephardic Jews may not be Ashkenazi, I don’t think that most would consider themselves to be people of Color, therefore it is my opinion that they are not Jews of Color. Side note, if you are Mizrahi or Sephardic and consider yourself to be a Jew of Color, please comment below!

Lastly, if you’re stopped before entering a synagogue, if your Jewish identity has even been questioned, if you’ve had a difficult time finding a Jewish partner, if you’ve had a difficult time getting your children into religious schools, if you’re asked if you were raised Jewish, if you’re constantly asked to tell “your story”, if you hear, “you don’t look Jewish“, if you’re mistaken for the help rather than a member of a Jewish community, if you’re a member of a bi-racial relationship and it’s assumed that you have converted for your partner -you’re a Jew of Color. It should be noted that with the exception of religious school-I have experienced all of these things.

Jews of Color have always been and will always be members of the Jewish community, and while I am a Jew of Color who chose Judaism, historically Jews have always been multi-ethnic and multiracial. For the Torah tells us so.

So how is it that when someone thinks of who a Jew is or what a Jew looks like my face is the last image that comes to mind?


4 Responses to "Who is a Jew of Color?"


[I posted this on my blog a while back, but thought it relevant to this post: I’m a British Jew of the Sephardi tradition, my maternal family is from Iraq, but we fled that country in the 1940s due to antisemitism].

‘Funny you don’t look Jewish’

This is what someone said the other day , as said person thought I was ‘Cypriot , Spanish,Mediterranean or possibly Arab’ and I was curious as to what a Jewish woman should look like, expecting something about big noses/curly hair or some other stereotype, but to which I just got a half apology and how the person sputtered they weren’t racist.

It is difficult to tell, in so much as unlike religious Jewish men we don’t wear the kippah. I’m not married I don’t cover my hair and although I dress modestly, I wear jeans, trousers as well as skirts- although even my shortest skirts cover my knees, unlike some of the dresses my contemporaries wear which barely covers their assets.

I see the Jewish people not so much as a race, but as a people, a nation of you will. We are a global nation, a family… we are the Children of Israel, chosen by God to be a light to this world-not because of superiority-but by being the least of nations any good is reflective of God, not ourselves. We all have a common ancestry via the matriarchs and patriarchs, a common history and a common destiny . Above all we have one God and His Torah to follow.

As Jews we are of many difference races & cultures based on maternal descent or anyone who sincerely wishes to join our family can do so via conversion. We have a binding, everlasting, covenant with God, and the land of Israel is the land that God has given to us. Even those Jews who do not believe in him are still Jews; Hashem still believes in them.[Genesis 17, 3-8 & Exodus 3, 3-6].

We, the children of Israel, have a shared 4,000 year ‘ourstory’, we are music makers, poets, writers, philosophers, scientists, engineers, teachers, doctors, nurses and of many other backgrounds, who have given the world so much & received little in return, a nation ‘so scored, oppressed, humiliated, and made to suffer’ (Yevamot 47a-b) .

We have know great joy, but great sadness, great light and great darkness, we have shed tears of joy and tears of laughter. We have been scorned, mocked, slaughtered and beaten. We are still here. We are the Children of Israel. We have HaTikvah. We have hope.

This is so beautiful! Thank you!

[…] special attention to black artists and writers as witnesses to the American experience (especially Jews of color). James H. Cone, who is very possibly the most important theologian alive today, describes […]

[…] security as they enter a synagogue for services, even when wearing a kippah. White Jews will often mistake Jews of color for “the help” or assume that they’re lost when looking for their seat in shul. From what […]

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