A good friend of mine recently sent me a link to “Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish” and it blew my mind. It stirred up feelings in me that I haven’t felt in a long time, and I felt like I could have written most of the article myself.
I’m black, and black American Jews are not so common in Israel (or anywhere?). I’m first-generation American in my family, like you. And like you, I grew up as a not-so-religious Catholic in a place heavily populated with religious Jews – Teaneck, NJ. I converted about 4 years ago. I now live in Israel with my husband and kids.
It’s hard, sometimes, sticking out so much. We recently moved to a small yishuv, and people have to get used to the sight of me (and my kids). It takes a while, and can be really frustrating. It makes me ashamed that I’m a convert sometimes, which is sad.
I’ve had people come up and ask me, “Are you Jewish? Where are you from, who are you??” (Don’t these people know that is assur-forbidden!)
The last time someone asked me if I was Jewish, I said “I was born Jewish,” which, in my mind, is sort of true, since I was reborn in the mikveh (ritual bath). I was just fed up. It was a Rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife) who asked!