I just realized I didn’t have a blog post scheduled for today. Ug. In the last 48 hours, I seem to have picked up a bug. I’m coughing, my chest and throat ache, my eyes and nose are runny. I’m a mess. I’ve got a doctor appointment scheduled this afternoon, thank G-d. I never get sick. Ever. The last time I did nearly 3-4 years ago, the doctor had to give me liquid cherry-flavored painkillers because the cold/cough exacerbated my fibromyalgia.
So I recently broke up with my therapist. I think it was time. It became financially daunting–my health insurance just went up again and mental and dental health services have never been covered. Also, I realized that I stopped being depressed so I didn’t have so much to talk about. (I know, whoop! Scream! Yell! I took me three years but I beat that depression back once and for all.) I also realized my main issues (chronic pain and race) weren’t and couldn’t be address by my therapist.
Yesterday, my husband and I met with a social worker at his school to talk about the day-to-day stuff we face together as an interracial couple and I face me as a Jew of color and a convert. The best part was getting confirmation that indeed, we do need to come up with rote phrases and responses for the situations we keep stumbling over, over and over again.
“That question makes me uncomfortable.”
“That statement makes me uncomfortable.”
“I don’t discuss that with people I’ve just met.”
There are just a few that we came up with during the meeting. No, they don’t seem terribly complicated but usually I feel too shocked and appalled to use a pithy, snappy comeback much less one that clearly establishes that I am in fact VERY uncomfortable. I’ll be going through my recent blogs to look over the different scenarios I usually find myself in and hopefully figuring out with friends, family and you, my lovely readers, how I could respond to them in a different way that leaves me feeling comfortable instead of angry, violated, harrowed.
I did feel that the social worker, who was white and female, didn’t understand why a Jew of color does NOT always want to discuss their race and ethnicity, much less their conversion if they had one, in the first five minutes they meet someone. She thought it made sense for me just to give everyone a three-line opening bio to appease their curiosity. But I’ve found that doing this actually leads to more and more invasive questions. I’ve found myself “trapped” in situations where I quickly become the main attraction at the table (TELL US, EVERYONE, YOUR STORY!) or the social studies teacher/travel agent (TELLS US EVERYTHING ABOUT THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC!) or had to deal with everyone’s awkward responses to now knowing my racial/ethnic background (Oh, let me tell you about all the Hispanic people I’ve ever known!).
Six months ago is an interesting marker. Six months ago is when my husband got into a fight at a Shabbos table in Los Angeles over racism which lead to this piece: “A lesson for Jews in Gates’ Arrest?”. And just before that, I broke up with a good friend after she said some racist things. Honestly, lately, I find that when I’m upset enough I think about leaving the Jewish community (not Judaism) altogether. I know converts who have fluctuated between periods where they’re really connected to a community and periods where they’ve moved away. I don’t think that’s realistic for me at this point. About 99% of my friends are now Jews. Honestly, my hope is that when my husband gets a position as a rabbi, we can build a community that is welcoming everyone, especially Jews of color and converts.
My sister agreed that I need to come up with some coping strategies and I’m inclined to agree especially since in the next six months will bring me into a lot of new situations where I’ll be meeting new people and inevitably stupid questions and comments will be made. Not to mention, I have to mentally, emotionally and physically prepare for speaking at Limmud NY on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day about racism in the Jewish community.
In the future, I’ll be reaching out to you all to help me come up with effective responses to some of the situations I come up against, especially since so many of you face the same situations in the Jewish community. I’ll also be rereading past posts and collecting the wonderful comments you’ve made already. Many thanks to those who have diligently been commenting on the blog or responding on my fan page.