Going to a new community is never easy when you’re a Jew of color. There’s this paranoid (but not paranoid) feeling that everyone is staring at you. You twiddle your thumbs during services and wait for the questions that come after:
“Where are you from?” and “Where are you REALLY from?” and “Are you a convert?” I know people who have stopped going to synagogue because they can’t take it anymore.
Sometimes, rarely, those questions don’t come. A community is just…welcoming and it’s an incredible heady feeling!
So heady that it doesn’t even get ruined when some random woman says “Hi” and then leans over to shake your hand and fakes left to put her hand in your hair without asking. Um, hello, personal space?
But then it helps if after you get mandhandled a lovely woman, a fellow Jew of color, rushes over after services to gush over that the immense beauty of your kinky ‘fro and how much it reminds her of her daughter’s beautiful hair. I can’t even get these kind of compliments from my grandmother.
And by the way, I don’t care how cute and “exotic” you think my hair is…I am not an exotic monkey at a petting zoo: “DON’T TOUCH THE HAIR!”