chronic pain/fibromyalgia · gilmore girls · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · pesach · race/racism

Racism, Society, the Jewish community and all that jazz…

So, I (sort of) survived the talk my husband and I gave on “race and Judaism.” No one fell asleep. But better yet, none of the thirty-plus attendees seemed offended and many stopped by afterwards to compliment us. The group of whites, blacks, Jews, had congregated together for this “Race, Society & the Jewish Community” talk sponsored by Uri L’tzedek, a Jewish social action group helmed by some of my husband’s yeshiva schoolmates. Aiming to change and interact the world around them, Uri L’Tzedek is reaching out to the Dominican communites that the founders now live in.

The most interesting part for me was being back in Washington Heights with my four-page typed printout of the racist comments that I’ve endured since I entering the Orthodox Jewish community two and a half years ago. Many of the comments, both subtle and blatant, were made while I was living in Washington Heights during my conversion. Some ignorant people carelessly make derogatory comments about the Dominican community, about non-Jews, and I would jump up to explain and defend.

The general thought we hoped the audience would walk away with was deep and just in time for Pesach. That Jews, the bearers of a tradition seeped in both privilege and slavery, should never forget where they came from and use the duality of their tradition to truly become a “light unto the nations.” Perhaps the answer to the anxious convert who asked me how the Jews having survived the Holocaust could perpetuate the evils of racism would find hope in the idea that some Jews haven’t learned enough to truly embrace their tradition but maybe this Pesach, they will.

Uri L’Tzedek is on Facebook at: Join the Group.

And once again, here’s the latest update of the story of taking my frum bathing suit out on the town: The Girl in the Wetsuit.

Now, I’m crawling into bed in a little ball of pain. Sigh.

5 thoughts on “Racism, Society, the Jewish community and all that jazz…

  1. You know, I’m on a mailing list for Orthodox women and the swimsuit issue was something heavily discussed and debated recently. It’s Chozrim Women, are you a member? I thought it was interesting that this story pops up right after I read all the interesting stuff on the mailing list!

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  2. I just wanted to applaud your efforts to discuss this topic among various communities. I am an African American Orthodox convert and think that this really needs to be talked about. I have had many bad experiences but try not to let them get me down. Often I don’t think people notice the harmful things they say or they respond that they were not talking about me specifically…sigh… Thanks for the work you do!!!

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  3. Aliza, I heard such amazingly positive things about that Uri beit midrash! Mazal tov to you and Yehuda! It is an amazing organization and I am glad that the two of you were able to both make an impact and help others do so as well. I wish that I could have been there!

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  4. Hey Aliza, great site, and I like the aesthetics of the layout.Anyway, I found it interesting also that the Jewish community contains a large amount of racism. Not in the sheet-wearing or wasp-ish boardroom kind of way, but in the “they” are not “us” manner of exclusion. I was surprised to hear the terms “shwartze” and “shiksa” in ways that suggested they were threats or again “not us.” I overheard a friend of my mother-in-law’s tell her “once a shiksa (gentile female), always a shiksa,” in response to my conversion. I’ve also learned that the “shiksa” has a reputation for being a bad housekeeper (martha stewart perhaps the only exception?). Sometimes I laugh, other times I step up and confront it–depending. I hear virulent anti-Arab talk and I have to voice that my daughter has a lovely Muslim friend who comes from a sensitive, caring family from Pakistan. That not all arabs are extremists/jihadists. Wherever there is the tendency to categorize an entire group of people under a negative stereotype, I urge tolerance and open-mindedness. The same can be said of the Irish community in Boston. There has been much tension between them and the Jewish community there in the past, and it is hurtful to think that here is a people who has suffered under the rule of England and Protestant vs. Catholicism, known prejudice, only to perpetuate more bigotry. Is this prejudice a survival tool of the oppressed, some group cohesivity/strength in numbers thing? Farrakhan and Obama’s pastor may be another example within the African-American community? We need tolerance and open-mindedness, and I hope we always strive for that. Whew, sorry I’m so long-winded! I probably need to blog somewhere..

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