Trying to be colorblind

Apparently there’s a new crisis in our community–addressing Jews of color.

Or at least Jewish communal leaders are creating said crisis.

The Forward yesterday published an article by Dr. Bethamie Horowitz, on “How Jews Became Not Just White Folks.” As she points out:

In the past several months three different organizations have held gatherings highlighting the growing racial-ethnic diversity of the American Jewish population. They have been advocating a “big tent” approach, pushing the organized community to adapt to perceived demographic changes. (MORE)

Unfortunately, I attended some of those events only to find that the community is making an issue out of an intellectual exercise and not actual concerns.

Horowitz sites the historical notion that Jews have entered the American racial category of white, and that if we want to include Jews of color we must

widen the normative expectations normally contained in the term “Jewish” so that it can begin to include a multitude of subculture, choices, and flavors.

I’m sorry, but isn’t it an individual’s own fault if he or she is narrow-minded about what a Jew looks like. I’m not surprised when I see a black or Hispanic Jew walk into a sanctuary, JCC or Hillel.

Why should I be? For hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years, Jews have lived across the globe in a variety of cultures. As for Jews of choice, Judaism has no such restrictions.

Are there actually organizations whose “tent” isn’t open to Jews based on race? Are there Jews in our community who face discrimination because of their color? Let me know, so we can root our bigotry, not fix a “communal demographic change.”

I suggest to fellow communal service professionals that instead of wasting our time living in a hypothetical land of imaginary barriers, we address actual issues facing Jews of color, such as this one received by MJL this week:

It would be appreciated if you expanded your coverage of preparing for the mikveh to include issues regarding various types of hair, particularly dreadlocks. Specifically, if the water has to touch every strand of hair, does the individual with dreadlocks have to cut off his/her locked hair (which is permanently bonded, NOT braided)?

Posted on June 21, 2007

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