a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Why is this Scary…

Posted on: January 17, 2012

 One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter is Jihadi Jew.  I appreciate how he sees the similarities and beauty of Islam and Judaism.  I appreciate how he openly and publicly embraces Islamic principles and uses passages in the Quran along side passages in Torah.  Most recently, he handed the reigns of his blog to his daughter who shared her experience being a “Hijabi for a Day.”  For an entire day this Jewish young woman walked around looking like a Muslim.

The other morning, after a particularly grueling fight with my hair (my hair won) I decided it would be best to wrap it up.  I wrap my hair for a variety of reason, the fights are just one.  I wrap my hair as a way to test out my personal comfort level with modest dressing.  I wrap my hair because wearing a kippah feels weird.  I wrap my hair because wrapping, like wearing a kippah, makes me feel close to Jewish tradition.  I wrap my hair to remind myself that I’m only a human and that Gd is above (around, inside) me.

Last week, as I was wrapping my hair I bent down to retrieve a safety pin that escaped.  There was already one securing the scarf at the base of my neck and gravity caused the other two ends to come forward around my shoulders.  I straighten back up and looked at myself in the mirror-I looked Muslim.  I tend to think I always appear Muslim rather than Jewish when I wrap my hair, because of my skin color.  Even though my neck is always showing, hair is usually peaking out and I wrap the scarf into a sort of a bun at the base of my neck  rather than how I look in this picture, I get more salaams than shaloms.

After spending time in Israel I realized that my hair wrapping is similar to the way that Israeli women wrap their hair, rather than a hijab worn by a Muslim woman.  This, though, looked clearly Muslim.  I was shocked and a bit fascinated.  Could I walk around like this for an entire day?

I’m drawn to many aspects of Islam, the hijab, and why woman start to wear hijab is one of them.  I’ve read many personal statements and watched YouTubeChannels of converts (reverts) to Islam.  Why women, specifically women who chose Islam, decided to wear hijab is awesome to me.  Like the norm of Orthodox Judaism, traditionally Muslim men and women have modest dressing criteria.  Whether a woman chooses to wear hijab or not is not something that I’m an expert at.  From my understanding, it is written in the Quran, and like many things written in Torah, I imagine that a Muslim woman decides what works for her and what does not.  The only thing I do know with certainty is that if you wear a hijab, if you wear a sheitel or if you wear a kippah you are immediately identifiable as a person of faith.  You are a person with a closeness to Gd, you are a person filled with love of religion.

Or a are you a person to be feared?

…and Not This?

 To be sure every religious groups has extremist.  Followers who take the letter of their Holy Book to the extreme and use the words of Gd to do harm.  I can’t actually think of a single religious group who hasn’t used Gd’s name as an excuse for hatred, ignorance, bigotry or violence.  We think they’re crazy, we’d like to disown them from our faith, let the rest of the world know that they’re the small minority.  We’re not like them.  They aren’t a part of us.  We’re different than that.

For the vast majority, Christians specifically, this seems to work.   It’s the Protestants, we’re Catholics.  Those nuts are the Evangelicals, we are Mormons.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses think that, we’re Protestants.  Fingers flying all over the place all in the name of Gd or his son.  Except when that faith is challenged.  Sometimes a Protestant will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a Mormon if their goal is to forbid LGBTQ people from adopting children.  Sometimes a Jehovah’s Witness will shake hands with an evangelical if they’re standing outside of an abortion clinic calling a woman a whore.  Perhaps they’ll all stand together to prevent a mosque from being built in downtown Manhattan.

I don’t have a problem with prayer in football, but I wonder if the world would care even more if the person praying looked like the picture of me in a hijab rather than a white man on his knee.  Everyone from athletes to rappers to Oscar winners thank Jesus for helping them get to their special moments.  The sign of the cross or a close up, slow- motion shot of a fist pump and the words, “Thank you, Jesus” on the lips of a linebacker aren’t new occurrences.  But this Tebowing thing steps over the line.  Maybe it’s his support of Focus on the Family, maybe it’s his prolife stance, maybe I just don’t like the way that he looks.

What if Tim Tebow were Muslim asks an important question, but I’m pretty sure I know the answer.  If Tim Tebow were a Muslim he wouldn’t be allowed to pray on the field.  If Tim Tebow were a Muslim (and carried the same conservative views)  Focus on the Family probably would not use him in their advertisements.  If Tim Tebow were a Muslim the Republican candidates wouldn’t support him and would warn Americans that he was trying to unravel the very fabric of our all-American game.  Tebowing wouldn’t be a phrase, no one would post pictures of themselves “Tebowing”.  The Broncos would be a no-name team with a terrorist throwing the ball.

What if Tim Tebow were a Jew?  Would Americans embrace him if he wore a beard and payis?  No.  Blue-blooded Americans like people who fulfill our idea of who an American is.  A good ole boy who throws the pigskin.  A good ole boy who believes in the word of JC.  A good ole boy who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, that abortion is murder, that the Christian way is the right way.

When Rick Perry (in the running for asshat of the year) made his strong video we all shook our heads in disbelief.   He’s a nut, he’s a wacko, he’s insane!  Thing is, he doesn’t think so, he thinks he’s justified by the Bible no less.   Some Christians groups even applaud him (and the rest of their lot) for trying to bring Gd back to American, but Gd has been here the whole time.  Gd is stamped on our money, Gd is in our courtrooms, Gd is in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Gd has always been a part of American life, but only one way of loving Gd is valid?

The dream Martin Luther King had was that all people be given the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness.  Regardless of our religion, sex, our orientation, our creed, ethnicity or race we are all Americans.  So I don’t have a problem with Tim Tebow, per se, as long as Tim Tebow and the lot of them keep their politics and their beliefs away from Gd.


6 Responses to "Why is this Scary…"

Actually, I find Tebow a lot scarier. That’s not really the right word. I find it distasteful. Not because he’s expressing himself as a Christian, but because he’s making a spectacle of himself. Why does he need to pray this way at this time in front of 1000s of people? He can’t pray at some other time in some other place, or only in the endzone? Or is he simply enjoying the buzz about himself on everyone’s lips?

People who wear religious dress do so every day, upon waking in the morning until they go to sleep. They don’t do it for anyone but themselves and they don’t save it for the camera. I find what Tebow does exploitive and inappropriate. He may be a great believer in his faith, but my personal feeling is that he’s without humility and I think humility is a huge component of faith.

I agree with you. I struggle with modest dressing for that very reason. I was always taught as a Christians that it’s not about telling everyone how good of a person you are, but it’s about actions. Wearing a scarf around my head to feel closer to Gd and a connection to Judaism would identify me as a religious person. It means being in the spot light, on display and I’m not sure that I’m ready for that responsibility.

Athletes have been praying on the fields for ever, but I think I’m with you on the exploitive thing. It kind of reminds me of the time when “the world” wanted to know where the First Family went to church…why? Their faith doesn’t need to be on display, mine doesn’t and I don’t need his thrown in my face.

If Tim Tebow were Black you likely wouldn’t have a problem with anything he’s doing. Further, the humility that you state “is a huge component of faith” is not exhibited in the text and tone of this post. Neither is religious tolerance. “If Tim Tebow were a Muslim he wouldn’t be allowed to pray on the field.” If Tim Tebow were a devout Muslim he would be praying multiple times during the day, interrupting work or whatever else he might be doing, wherever he might be. Each of the individuals you select to criticize are White. I suggest this says more about you than it does about Tim Tebow or anyone else.

I’m guessing that it’s your first time here, Carloyn. I say that because you’re clearly trolling and haven’t taken the time to learn anything about who I am, my views, or anything about me. If you had you would realize that as a lesbian, Jewish woman Tim Tebow and Rick Perry are strongly opposed to who I am. My partner is white and a lot of my friends are white. My rabbi is white, my co-workers are white. My best friends growing up were white. High school boyfriends, teachers, roommates in college-all white. I have no problem with white people.

If Tim Tebow were black he wouldn’t be the phenomenon he is simply because of the color of his skin. I sincerely doubt that he would get the attention he does if he were a black man. There are, infact, many black athletes (as there always have been) who are devout, who give large sums of money to charity, who are Christian who’ve never seen this kind of embrace from the public.

I don’t think that the Republicans would embrace a black Tim Tebow (or a Muslim Tim Tebow, which was the point of the post) I don’t think a black Tim Tebow would do Focus on the Family commercials, I would assume that a football playing black man praying on a field would be a democrat. I wouldn’t have a problem with a black Tim Tebow because there wouldn’t be a black Tim Tebow. And if there were he wouldn’t be this guy.

Futhermore, I have no problem with Christians. My family is Christian, I have Christian friends, I was a Christian for 31 years, things you’d know if you read my blog. I explored several faiths before settling on Judaism.

My posts are always about the overlaps in monotheistic religions, the similarities of religions, the quest for religions to see beyond the differences and look towards our common point of entry. We’re all children of Abraham. Which is why I don’t think you’ve actually read my blog. You’ve read this post and decided to make and assumption about who I am, what I believe and where I am and am not tolerant.

For the record, I do not tolerate anyone regardless of their faith or ethnicity who holds bigoted, intolerant, or hateful views-like Tebow and Perry. I had the same views of that other Republican candidate who was black…whatever is name is.

So, welcome to Black, Gay and Jewish, Carolyn. I strongly encourage you to read about who I am, what my views are, and learn about my journey and the people in it. You’ll see that the color of anyone’s skin is not my problem, political views (which I assume you share with Tim Tebow and Rick Perry) I do.

Dear Erika,

Thank you for this post! As a 5th grade teacher whose students recently taught me about “tebowing,” i’ve been looking for a way to discuss this with them further, and your question may be just what i was waiting for. Students in my class have recently been kneeling on the floor “tebowing” during recess soccer games. At first i was amused, then i was weirded out, and finally, i wondered what conclusions they are coming to from all of this tebow hype, and assumptions about whose religion is fine in public and whose is “scary.” They have recently been part of an Islamaphobia presentation, so they are primed for your question. i’ll let you know if i’m able to ask the class, and what discussion comes of it.

i’ve been reading your blog periodically since this summer, and it’s always thought-provoking and uplifting to me. Not uplifting in the sense that it always makes me joyful, but in the sense that i’m honored to share a bit in your journey and thoughts.

Thanks again!


Thanks so much for stopping by to leave a comment. I’m still a bit confounded by the whole Tebow-thing. On one hand, seeing someone’s devotion to their faith and being unashamed to profess that faith is honorable. On the other, it feels that when “America” prays it only prays one way. I also cannot forget lessons from the Christian Bible that teaches humility…

I’d love to know what the 5th grade perspective! I think kids are sometimes more in-tune to what’s really going on, they sort of see beyond the bull and get to the meat of the matter.

Thanks again for stopping by and for your kind words about my blog.

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