My High Holiday Prayer: Stop Exploiting Jews of Color

About three months ago I invited over 20 Jews into my home for a havurah we call the Tacoma Shabbat Experiment. After my co-organizers and I finished leading Kabbalat Shabbat and the important bits of Ma’ariv, we sat down to a dinner that I’d prepared. I only planned for 20 people, and we had almost 30, but we found more plates, pulled up another table and folks sat on a hodgepodge of various lawn chairs and stools. Wine flowed, we tended to a pre-lit bonfire and folks meandered around the backyard my wife and I share with neighbors.

shabbat tableI was saying goodbye to one woman when a man I didn’t know approached me and asked what my connection to Judaism was. Slightly tipsy and really pissed off, I quickly reminded him that his question was hugely problematic. He leaned in to ask about Ethiopian Jews and Ugandan Jews, hoping for some validation. Instead of realizing his misstep he continued to ask my connection to Judaism, claiming to not understand my objection to his line of questioning. Thankfully, a white Jewish woman stepped in and I turned my back to him to continue to say goodbye to a friend.

This was not the first time a white Jew has questioned the authenticity of my Judaism based on the color of my skin. It was, however, the first time a white Jew had done this to me in my own home.

One comment on “My High Holiday Prayer: Stop Exploiting Jews of Color

  1. Freda Birnbaum on

    What that guy did is just incredibly rude and bullying. Who is he to demand answers to his questions? If YOU bring up your story, fine. Otherwise, not. Sometimes the curiosity IS innocent, but we who ask have to think about how it sounds to the person being asked. I myself am always interested in how somebody came to convert to Judaism (NOT that all JOCs are converts!!) because, as a BT, I’m fascinated by how somebody came to choose the sometimes rocky path of halachic Judaism if they didn’t have to. But I wait until they bring it up! (I have a significant number of friends who are converts, but we don’t talk about it much. And only if they initiate.)

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