Rebecca Walker


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nextbook: Chosen People

Nextbook: Chosen People

I don't know if it was being with all those Jews at the SF Jewish Community Center last night, or thinking more about what spiritual tradition my partner and I should pass on to our son, but I found myself wondering about the black jewish thing today.

I came across this very interesting podcast on the largest African-American synagogue in America. It raises important questions about what it means to be Jewish. Most people consider Jewishness to be synonymous with European culture, as most American Jews descended primarily from Eastern Europe, some via what was then called Palestine. But what does it mean to be Jewish for someone from Uganda, or the South side of Chicago?

This is a must listen for anyone interested in the subject.

PS It's cold cold cold in Philadelphia! But I am looking forward to speaking at St. Joe's tomorrow. Hope to see you there!

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Blogger rachel_carrales said...

As a Jewish Latina, I've given a lot of thought to this issue as well. But, Judaism is such an embedded part of who I am and how I want (and try) to move through the world, that it transcends issues of race. To be more precise, race has to do with construction and culture, while my religion has to do with my spirit, the part of me that's fixed and eternal in a way that feels even more significant than my ethnicity---even though I proudly identify as Latina.

Part of this means that it's especially important to combat the racism that inevitably pops up in the Jewish community, because that's crucial if we want to act in an authentically Jewish (i.e. morally responsible) way.

But, I also think it's important to educate people (including Jews) about how a Jew ought to be defined, because it really does emcompass so much more than what we see on TV.

In short, it's a big 'ol tent, and there's space for everyone.

P.S. I'm so excited that you're thinking about re-claiming, re-signifying, and re-thinking your Judaism for your child. As a very Jewy Jew, and a huge fan of your writing, I've always looked forward to you writing more about how and to what extent Judaism and Jewish ritual have a place in your life.

Blogger Rebecca Walker said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. For me, my spiritual home is definitely Vajrayana Buddhism, and yet I have this thing that we call Jewish culture running through my psyche like a lightning bolt; blackness too. Both constructs, for sure, and neither monolithic, but both so organic (and often pleasurable) to me. I had such fun the other night kibbitzing at the SFJCC and learning that I have yiccus (sp?) and am a descendant of the Bal Shem Tov from my cousin Howard who showed up miraculously...It's the way we talk when we're together, the gestures we make, the way we understand each other without having to say much. And I have found that I can do this within many different cultures, and to love and appreciate the bonds that it yields with "others." In many ways it is a wonderful time to be alive--when we know that we can relate deeply to one another through unspoken cues that can be learned, transmitted, imbibed like air. There is freedom for me in this.


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