Black, Gay, and Jewish: Part One

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Black, Gay, and Jewish: Part One

Last night while reading the Tanakh on my midnight ride home a fellow black passenger felt the need to preach the good news to me. His opinions varied from "You know Jews are black don't you?" and "Jesus is the messiah!" In typical Erika fashion I entertained yet another conversation with an ignorant man until I insisted that he stop talking to me if he wasn't willing to listen to other opinions. When I told my (white) Jewish girlfriend this morning she said, "Welcome to Judaism"  Sheesh. I thought being a queer black lady was tough! 

That statement has been on the lips of everyone I've encountered, including my girlfriend, since I made the decision to convert to Judaism a few months ago. I haven't started the conversion process, I'm still Temple Shopping. I had an appointment with a Rabbi at a particular Temple, but she canceled on me.  I've attended two Shabbat services at her Temple and, well, I'm still looking. There really isn't any answer that seems to appease people when I tell them that I'm converting especially when I say that it's because it feels right. That's not to say that people aren't supportive, most of them are. They're just concerned, which is valid considering last night.
 
The point that the man on the train was making before telling me that Jesus was the messiah is that Jews are black and therefore I didn't need to convert because as a black woman I'm already Jewish. I suppose I could see his point, minus that whole thousands of years of migration, slavery, and the fact that I was born, raised, and baptised Christian. 

I always chuckle a bit when I see pictures of any Biblical figure because any learned person could tell you that they probably weren't blond haired and blue eyed. It makes people uncomfortable to think that the son of God probably looked a bit more like an Arab than a Greek cherub. Whether you're a creationist or you believe in evolution both scientist and the Bible agree that human life started in one place-the continent that is now Africa. 

So why, then, is it so mind-boggling to think that Black and Jewish don't go together? One of first books I read as I started this journey is Rebecca Walkers', "Black, White, and Jewish"  it's clearly the inspiration for the title of this Vp Series. There is a part in the book where she's in her dorm room at Yale and a drunk, unannounced white male enters her room and asks her, and I'm paraphrasing, "Can you exist?"  Meaning a Black Jew.  My answer is, well yes!  Of course!  Whether by conversion, in my case or by generations Jews, like Muslims and Christians come in all colors. 

That said, there was one particular Jewish person who actually said, I've never heard of a black Jew and I smiked (that's a smile and smirk combination) and then asked him which continent Israel was on. He paused and then said, "Well, my family's from Israel. They came after the Holocaust from Poland." "So, are Poles Jews, then?" I asked him. He sort of chewed on on it a bit before wishing me, "Mazel Tov!"  On Friday night after temple I had a great conversation with an Israeli couple at a party. The wife was giving me temple recommends while her husband was asking why I'd ever want to become a Jew. He was born in Israel but his parent's came after the Holocaust. The family moved to the US when he was a child.  For the first time he was aware of his "otherness" when he was called a "fucking Jew" on his way Shabbat with his father. 

They moved back to Israel when he was in his teens, though he says he's never felt the same about it since.  As a black woman, I can relate. Eventually my girlfriend and I will be raising black, Jewish children (with two moms). Is it worth it, putting these unborn children through the ringer? I cannot answer that question because I don't know what "worth it means" It's worth it for me to be a strong parent, a strong black woman, a strong Jew. Welcome to my little ditty about my growth process. I hope you enjoy and if you have any temple recommends, let me know



Comments [13]

SMBrown's picture

Hope this series will include

Hope this series will include what attracted you (that sounds weirdly sexual when talking about religion!) to Judaism.  Not to single that particular faith out--I'm just intrigued by choices that are made freely, as an adult, without the weight of family history, etc.

lawsonsj's picture

Hello

Just read this piece and thought I would say hello.  BTW I am Black, Jewish and a Lesbian

Erika Davis's picture

Nice to meet you!!

Tell me you live in NYC!!  :)  

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com

Beth.Emunah's picture

synagogue shopping

You're in New York, why not Congregatio Beth Simhat Torah, the LGBT synagogue?

Erika Davis's picture

I'm definitely checking it out

It's on my list.  I have three that I'm looking into at the moment and that is one of them.  I'm attending Shabbat services there this Friday so we shall see!!  :)

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com

Grace Moon's picture

i

really enjoy this topic - and your post. ethnicity, religion, conversion and the history of evolution. I believe we spent some 100,000 +/- years in Africa before we wandered off to our various river valleys and crafting our various religions.

 

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Erika Davis's picture

see??

Why don't other people know this??

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com

ShadowCat's picture

because

people. are. stupid.

pangaea (i.e. supercontinent)....

geek4grammar's picture

I haz good place 4 u

dude, when are you gonna come check out kolot chayeinu?! I would never presume to say that it's absolutely the best place for you to rock your conversion, but...I have strong gut feelings that you'd love it. we've had this convo a couple times already, if you recall-- I run the 20's and 30's group there; we have a lezzie rabbi who is co-chair of rabbis for human rights north america; and we have a LOT of interfaith/interracial/queer families, lots more jews by choice (that's the nice and supportive way to refer to people who convert) than most other synagogues, and really, it's just an incredibly warm, diverse, respectful community, that has deeply nurtured my soul for the last 3 years. seriously...come on over! http://www.kolotchayeinu.org/

We're all born naked. The rest is drag.
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Erika Davis's picture

I'm checking it out

Sorry!!!  I forgot the name but now my list of 3 temples has turned into a list of 4!  Thanks for reminding me (scolding me) Wink

 

 

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com

geek4grammar's picture

the pleasure is mine :)

no prob, bob. I'm usually at shabbat morning services, so come find me or ask around for me (jenny aisenberg, but the a is silent). I'll be out of town for the last week of august right up till rosh hashanna, but other than that, I'm around! and, I mean, you can talk to other people at kolot too ;p

also check out our FB page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brooklyn-NY/Kolot-Chayeinu/120303782853?ref=search

We're all born naked. The rest is drag.
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Keeli M's picture

smiked

"more like an Arab than a Greek cherub" - I feel like Jay Z could put that to music something awful, well done madam.  I feel you on all accounts but I have to say that the burdern or putting them (your future adorable and brilliant children) through the ringer only falls to the people that carry no authentic sense of self.  By the time your kids are old enough to be ridiculed for having the off brand shoes and not having a teletubby collection they will be surounded by so many other two mom or two dad households so much so that it's becomming the New Normal.  Everyone has a cross to bear...um...a Star of David to rock... so I think the kids will be allright.

l'chaim!

 

blow up my ego @lvrandafighter

Erika Davis's picture

I'm glad you liked that.

I'd like to think that, too.  Especially if we plop down in NYC, or Portland, or Austin, or any other queer city.

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com