Akira Ohiso with his son Simcha at the Jewish Multiracial Retreat 2009
Even out here in my new home in “La-la land” aka Los Angeles…where there is about as much Jewish diversity as you’d find in Israel with Jews of all kinds of color and from all over the world…I still can’t get away from those impertinent queries about my maiden name (a new but just as annoying twist on “Are you a convert?”) or the looooooong, endless stares and awkward questions from people who obviously think I “don’t look Jewish.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, I get it. You think I’m too tanned…to be Jewish. You think my nose is too small…to be Jewish. You think my hair is too big…to be Jewish. So how come in Israel no one ever questioned whether or not I was Jewish and I saw plenty of small-nosed, really tanned, Afro-rockin’ Jews who also spoke Spanish? Get with the program, my people.
I’m getting kinda bored with having to explain myself, especially to an incredibly diverse Jewish community that seems to want to hold on, kicking and screaming to the outdated, always-been-erroneous idea that all Jews look like Woody Allen or whatever stereotype they’ve bought into about what a (Ashkenazi) Jew looks like.
Is the Jewish bling–the star of David–hanging around my neck not big enough? I once saw a girl in Harlem wearing a gold one with diamonds that sparkled to the point of blinding passerby and yeah, it was bigger than any other star of David I’d ever seen (outside of “Spamalot”) but I don’t think I could ever move my head again if that one was weighted around my neck. Plus, I don’t think it’d make a difference since most of my Jew of color friends have been mistaken for the help even while wearing a tallit, kippah and requisite star of David bling.
Sometimes, I think all I’ve gotta start doing is carrying articles like this one below in my pocket (or at least a business card with my website on it) and maybe also, I should start handing out “My Uterus is None of Your Business” because apparently being a married Orthodox Jewish 30-year-old woman means people think they can can away with asking me about my ovaries every Shabbos.
And now, a must-read: “THE ENDLESS JEWISH AUDIENCE: A Japanese Jewish convert speaks” by Akira Ohiso who was also featured on the “Jews of Color” show that The Jewish Channel put together recently.
And no, sorry y’all, I’m not back to blogging, speaking, writing, Twittering or Facebooking though I am checking in whenever the situation demands it. If you haven’t already, sign up to get my blog via email. Your fan mail (but not your hate mail) is as always very much appreciated!
Also check out: “Surviving” by Akira Ohiso