Jewish& is a blog by Be’chol Lashon, which gives voice to the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Jewish identity and experience. The original multicultural people, Jews have lived around the world for millennia. Today, with globalism and inclusion so key in making choices about engaging in Jewish life,Jewish& provides a forum for personal reflection, discussion, and debate.
Their love was evident to everyone who was there on that beautiful day in October when Yechochanan and Aminah Perkins stood under the chuppah. Three years later, the couple still glow in each other’s presence. “There is so much I love about Aminah,” says Yechochanan, “She is nurturing, patient and beautiful. She is great with children. She knows how to get the house ready for Shabbat.” Aminah loves that “he takes time to explain and understand. He is patient, loving and caring. He will make a great father.”
Given the strength their love for each other is, it seems like these two were meant to be together. But as for many Jews of Color, finding a match was by no means guaranteed. The path to matrimony was part luck, part technology, and a whole lot of Torah. Romance was really an afterthought.
Yechochanan grew up in a Christian household, but questions about G-d and faith led him on a spiritual quest to study the other great world religions. When he discovered Torah and Judaism, he knew he had found a spiritual and communal home. Throughout his spiritual search, he had noted that no matter how they differed, “the great religions of the world agree on the importance of marriage and family.” But as he made a commitment to Torah and Judaism at the center of his life, he put aside thoughts of dating and marriage. The chances that he would find a woman who would share his passion for Torah and traditional ideas of home and family were small. And so he made his peace with being single and threw himself into work and Torah study.
Aminah was on her own spiritual journey. Rabbinic Judaism was unfamiliar but intrigued her. One of the places she looked to for information and interesting conversation was a Facebook group for Jews of Color at various stages of engagement with Judaism and with a wide array of approaches and understandings of Judaism. She became more and more convinced that Rabbinic Judaism was where she belonged. Returning frequently to the discussions, she realized that among the many participants one stood out as exceptionally informed, thoughtful and articulate, that of Yechochanan. And so filled with questions and curiosity, she began a private conversation with him.
Eventually they began speaking by phone as well. “It was not romantic at all,” Yechochanan says, “it was all about Torah, halakha [Jewish law] and values.” But even if he was not thinking about dating or marriage, from the first phone call, Aminah was. At some point she suggested that they meet in person. She was living in Atlanta, Georgia, and he was in Hampton, Virginia. “The chances that you find someone who shares your values, especially about traditional family and Torah, and your background with the African-American community are small,” Yechochanan explains, but he was not looking for romance. He had been in serious relationships in the past and knew “it fades. But it didn’t hurt that she was so good-looking.”
Soon he came to visit Atlanta and by the second visit they agreed to marry. He moved down to Atlanta and planned to tell their families. Yechochanan invited some of Aminah’s family members to join them at his family’s annual reunion sharing the news with a splash during a fashion show.
Theirs was a traditional Jewish wedding with a distinct African-American feel. A mix of traditions and cultures, that reflected exactly who they are. They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, because as Aminah explains, “we celebrate Tu B’Av.” And besides, Yechochanan has a broader commitment to love, “I believe that a man should honor his wife and treat her with love and respect everyday.” But it is clear that their relationship, as improbable as it might have been and which started in technology, is filled with romance and love.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.