books and reading · culture/multiculturalism · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · race/racism · writing

Jews come in all shapes, colors and sizes

I just picked up In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People by Diane Tobin, Gary A. Tobin & Scott Rubin. Currently, I’m reading the chapter called “Feet in Many Rivers: Navigating Multiple Identities.” There were many other interesting chapters I could have started with but this one drew me in right away. It’s no surprise I guess then that my last Memoir Writing teacher told me that “identity” seems to be the common theme of most of my writing.

Here is a quote that jumped out at me:

“The way in which diverse Jews struggle to reconcile their Jewish religious identity with their racial or cultural identity seems to depend, in part, on the individual’s path to Judaism. Those who converted to Judaism tend to feel a sense of completeness, of joy, at having found their way to Jewish religious practice. Religious fervor carries them through the struggle, and they are sure of who they are, since they have had to undertake an arduous journey to claim that part of their identity” (56).

This quote above definitely expresses how I feel about my own struggles with identity.

Another quote from a different chapter, “Who is a Jew? Ideology and Bloodlines:”

“Questions of legitimacy become particularly import for Jews of color. Racially and ethnically diverse Jews are regularly subjected to the test of proving that they are real Jews instead of imposters or infiltrators. Do they have papers? Did they convert? While many of these same issues characterize Jewish views of converts and those that different groups of Jews have of each other, this testing is more often administered to ethnically and racially diverse Jews, if only because they appear so different from the majority community in the United States” (99).

Though I haven’t had a chance to really look at too much of the book (and I’ve already uncovered some points with which I disagree), I’m really looking forward to it in its entirety. Racism is on my mind this week, probably, because I’m currently working on a piece for about race and the Jewish community. One of the topics I mention in the piece is this question of legitimacy that is too often posed to Jews of color. I, too, agree that this is an American problem to a certain extent. In Israel, I never experienced this question of legitimacy as much as I have in America. In fact, in Israel, no one questioned my Jewishness, even though at the time, I was not yet a Jew.

2 thoughts on “Jews come in all shapes, colors and sizes

  1. Yeah, I’ve had this book for a while myself and it is really great. to be honest, I use it more as a research resource and haven’t read it the whole way through but it’s full of interesting stories and general I’m really impressed with most of what is published by the Institute For Jewish and Community Research.If you liked this is then you might also enjoy reading “Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community”.Shabbat Shalom


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