culture/multiculturalism · hair · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · race/racism · Yom Kippur

Dear Aliza: I’m Glad Someone Understands


Here’s a nice letter I recently received from a reader:

I’ve been following your blog for months and it is a revelation. I am a young South African woman of a mixed race background who has been struggling with the question of an orthodox Jewish conversion for about 2.5 years now and when I discovered your blog, it was a relief to discover that someone on the other side of the world understood exactly what I’m wrestling with.

The South African Jewish community is small and tightly knit and it is very difficult for a woman of colour to negotiate. Also while the community is 90% orthodox, this is in name only as only a small fraction are truly observant. At the moment I have chosen to step away from the conversion process to see if I am really crazy or brave enough to go through with it.

The local Jewish community is filled with many wonderful people but unfortunately, because Jews had a privileged position under apartheid, there are those who are insensitive and worse, racist. The unfortunate irony is that many European Jews migrated here because of the oppression they faced back in Eastern Europe but were unable to see the humanity of black people. I was refused entry to a shul last Yom Kippur because of my skin colour and the irony was that only a week earlier I visited the Jewish museum and Holocaust memorial in Berlin and got to see just how European Jewry was decimated by the Nazis.

I don’t want to ramble on for too long but I would like to thank you for your wonderful article on hair. I am the only one in my family with nappy hair so I remember all too well how my mom simply didn’t know what to do with my hair. Not to mention the sheer torment of being 7 or 8 yrs old and being forced to have my hair relaxed and the endless hours spent under the hood hair dryer. It seems that whether one is Latina, African or African American, the old question of good/bad hair is one that continues to plague us.

I hope that you will continue to enlighten and inspire us with your wonderful writing. I am eagerly anticipating the publication of your book because I believe that it will help many potential gerim and Jews of colour.

May HaShem continue to bless you and your work!

—Converting in South Africa

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2 thoughts on “Dear Aliza: I’m Glad Someone Understands

  1. No offense but I think there is too much craziness going on in the orthodox world right now for people to convert and I mean it. It is your decision whether you want to go through with it or not, and I wish you the best quite honestly, but I sometimes wonder myself whether it was worthy?

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  2. It makes me happy to see how many people love Hashem and want to get close to him and sad to see how miserable Jews treat them especially rabbis. I learned that the most beutiful prayer in the world Kaddish is what's keeping this world breathing. Chasveshalom it will stop breathing if we as Jews dont do our jobs and elevate this world spiritually. Let's support these wonderful people who love Hashem and help them convert, it's after all their choice, life is hard as it is, let's not make it harder for them, they are after all the holy of the holies and should be respected and loved. But even if your heart does not want to give love to the ger, at least respect them since they are brave human beings (those without ulterior motives of course) who love us and want to join us. Torah is beutiful and wonderful, and it was meant to be shared.

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