adoption · jews of color · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism

Born Jewish and Black

Collier Meyerson was born Jewish but that hasn’t stopped someone from questioning her Judaism at any and every Jewish event, pushing her further and further away from Judaism, especially when a Judaism that others insist doesn’t and can’t include people who like her.

“Last December my roommate decided to throw a Shabbos dinner. It was also the first night of Chanukah. I created a makeshift Menorah in our kitchen, since we did not have one. When I emerged from the kitchen with my creation, I stood in front of it like a proud mother. I quieted the small living room and began to recite the prayer. Most people, even the one or two that weren’t Jewish knew (at least) some of it, the beginning, “Barukh atah Adonai” being the loudest, but by the third verse, the one that you recite only on the Friday of Chanukah, all but three of the twenty people dropped out; me, my roommate and one young man.

After it was over I began to exit the room and was stopped by the same young man that had accompanied me in the last verse.

He insisted, “You’re not Jewish, are you?”

I replied calmly, coolly “Yes, yes I am.”

He replied “But you’re not like, Jewish, Jewish, right? I mean, you don’t look Jewish.”

I walked out of the room. But not without overhearing him whisper to his friend “I mean, c’mon, give me a break, she looks Indian or something, did Sara teach her that prayer do you think?” I left the house after that. It was the first time I’d cried since the day I left my Hebrew School Teacher’s house and written off any formal tie to Judaism. It was then that I realized I was unable to remove my imaginary cloak. The cloak, the performance of Judaism, turned out to be a projection of real desire to feel accepted. I realized I the liberal isolation I had grown up with was not a reflection of race in America and if I wanted to be Jewish I had to make a concerted effort to make people accept me as such.


Here’s hoping for a happy, sweet and healthy new year where more Jews of color walk into the Jewish conversation, not out of them.

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