The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Judaism, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2019-10-16 02:10Z by Steven

The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl

Agate Bolden (an imprint of Agate Publishing)
2019-11-12
256 pages
5.25 x 0.5 x 8 inches
Paperback ISBN-13: 9781572842755

Marra B. Gad, Inde­pen­dent Film and Tele­vi­sion Producer
Los Angeles, California

9781572842755.jpg

An unforgettable memoir about a mixed-race Jewish woman who, after fifteen years of estrangement from her racist great-aunt, helps bring her home when Alzheimer’s strikes

In 1970, three-day-old Marra B. Gad was adopted by a white Jewish family in Chicago. For her parents, it was love at first sight—but they quickly realized the world wasn’t ready for a family like theirs.

Marra’s biological mother was unwed, white, and Jewish, and her biological father was black. While still a child, Marra came to realize that she was “a mixed-race, Jewish unicorn.” In black spaces, she was not “black enough” or told that it was OK to be Christian or Muslim, but not Jewish. In Jewish spaces, she was mistaken for the help, asked to leave, or worse. Even in her own extended family, racism bubbled to the surface.

Marra’s family cut out those relatives who could not tolerate the color of her skin—including her once beloved, glamorous, worldly Great-Aunt Nette. After they had been estranged for fifteen years, Marra discovers that Nette has Alzheimer’s, and that only she is in a position to get Nette back to the only family she has left. Instead of revenge, Marra chooses love, and watches as the disease erases her aunt’s racism, making space for a relationship that was never possible before.

The Color of Love explores the idea of yerusha, which means “inheritance” in Yiddish. At turns heart-wrenching and heartwarming, this is a story about what you inherit from your family—identity, disease, melanin, hate, and most powerful of all, love. With honesty, insight, and warmth, Marra B. Gad has written an inspirational, moving chronicle proving that when all else is stripped away, love is where we return, and love is always our greatest inheritance.

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Color Me In, A Novel

Posted in Books, Judaism, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Religion, United States on 2019-08-20 13:28Z by Steven

Color Me In, A Novel

Delacorte Press (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2019-08-20
384 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525578239
eBook ISBN: 9780525578246
Audiobook ISBN: 9781984889140

Natasha Díaz

Color Me In

Debut YA author Natasha Díaz pulls from her personal experience to inform this powerful coming-of-age novel about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds.

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

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Natasha Díaz on Turning Her Black Jewish Childhood Into a YA Novel

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Judaism, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2019-08-15 17:41Z by Steven

Natasha Díaz on Turning Her Black Jewish Childhood Into a YA Novel

Alma
2019-08-15

Emily Burack, Associate Editor

Natasha Díaz was 9 years old when she and her mom went on Oprah to talk about the experience of being a multiracial family. Díaz, who has a Jewish father and a Liberian and Brazilian mom, had recently been featured in a documentary called Between Black & White. When Oprah asked her a question, young Natasha froze up (you can watch the video here).

Well, she is freezing up no longer — Díaz’s debut YA novel, Color Me In, fictionalizes her childhood and tells the coming-of-age story of Navaeh Levitz. Navaeh is a Black Jewish teenager whose father forces her to have a belated bat mitzvah at age 16. Navaeh’s parents are in the midst of a divorce, and the bat mitzvah is her father’s way of having her stay connected to his family. Meanwhile, Navaeh is struggling to figure out her identity, her relationship to her blackness, her privilege, a blossoming relationship, and her family. It’s a compelling and timely read.

We had the chance to chat with Díaz about writing Color Me In, #OwnVoices in young adult literature, and connecting with her Jewish identity.

How close does the protagonist Naveah’s experience as a Black Jewish teenager mirror your own?

I would say in a lot of ways it’s similar, and in a lot of ways it’s very different.

We have very similar backgrounds, racially and religiously. I am multiracial, she’s biracial. I’m Brazilian, Liberian, and Jewish, where she’s just half-Black and half-Jewish. And my parents separated, similar to her, although mine separated when I was much younger than she was. And, as a result of my parents’ divorce, it was literally in the divorce papers that I had to be raised Jewish.

Aside from that, I would say we’re completely different. I was raised very immersed in my culture, especially on my mom’s side, which is where the Black and Brazilian side is. My parents had split custody [over me], so I spent time with both families, but I’m closer to my mom’s family because a lot of my dad’s family doesn’t live in New York City. Where Naveah was sheltered from her identity, I was very immersed in mine.

It doesn’t mean that we haven’t, at times, shared a lot of the same insecurities, like feeling you don’t really fit in in either world, or you’re not really sure what part of yourself you have a right to claim or own. I’ve never had an extremely religious connection to Judaism. Culturally, though, especially growing up in New York City, there’s a lot of Jewish cultural things that I connect to on a personal level…

Read the entire interview here.

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Three Things the Jewish Community Can Do Better, According to a Mixed-Race Jewish Professional

Posted in Articles, Canada, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2019-05-24 20:42Z by Steven

Three Things the Jewish Community Can Do Better, According to a Mixed-Race Jewish Professional

My Jewish Learning
2018-05-23

Ruth Abusch-Magder, Education Director and Rabbi-in-Residence
Be’chol Lashon


Tema Smith

Tema Smith’s own experiences as a mixed race person shape her vision as a Jewish professional.

Tema Smith is often mistaken for white, but this mixed-race Jew is proud of both her Bahamian and Ashkenazi roots. She is also one of a growing number of Jews of color who are making careers in the Jewish world. We met up with Smith to learn about her professional life and personal experience and to hear what advice she has for Jewish institutions.

Be’chol Lashon: Tell us about your job.

Smith: I am the Director of Community Engagement at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada’s largest Reform congregation. Not only do I ensure that the basics of synagogue life, like becoming a member and connecting with the community, are smooth, but it is also my responsibility to keep the door wide open for prospective members. It also includes creating partnerships in the community and making connections more broadly…

…Be’chol Lashon: Does being mixed-race play into the work you do at Holy Blossom?

Smith: Being mixed-race has always given me a broader perspective on the work I do. I came into this work as someone who had only been an observer, and not as someone who grew up in the Jewish community, which has made me attuned to the experiences of those who are new to the community. As I mentioned before, the fact that we were not part of Toronto’s Jewish community had a lot to do with our family’s racial makeup. This makes me especially aware of the barriers to participation that people face and pushes me to work harder on inclusion, which is what we need to do to ensure the Jewish future as the demographics shift and we become more multicultural and multiracial. I find that my position as both an insider and outsider to Jewish life lets people open up to me. I am upfront about my identity, coming from both an interfaith and an interracial family. Because of that, I’ve noticed that it is not uncommon for people to share information about their lives that they are not sure the synagogue would welcome knowing, like their own faith journey or lack of observance.

Additionally, because I pass as a white Jew, I am able to walk into communal spaces and challenge some of the assumptions of who the Jewish community insiders are. My very existence often breaks down stereotypes of who we imagine to be a committed or engaged Jew…

Read the entire interview here.

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Sorry Music Journalists, Drake is Black.

Posted in Articles, Arts, Canada, Communications/Media Studies, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion on 2019-03-15 17:58Z by Steven

Sorry Music Journalists, Drake is Black.

Canadaland
2015-04-30

Kyrell Grant

Drake, born Aubrey Graham in a city where almost one in ten people are black, is black. Toronto’s greatest civic triumphalist since Jane Jacobs is black. And yet Drake’s own identity – his nationality, his mixed race background that includes Jewish heritage and upbringing, the neighbourhood he once lived in, the schools he went to – is often taken to mean that his black experience is somehow inauthentic.

It feels ridiculous to have to say this: Drake is black.

Drake, born Aubrey Graham in a city where almost one in ten people are black, is black. Toronto’s greatest civic triumphalist since Jane Jacobs is black.

He is a black man as much as any other black man. And yet Drake’s own identity – his nationality, his mixed race background that includes Jewish heritage and upbringing, the neighbourhood he once lived in, the schools he went to – is often taken to mean that his black experience is somehow inauthentic. While certainly not the first artist to have this kind of analysis imposed on him, Drake’s profile means that his art in particular has been prominently used to deny his black experience when it doesn’t conform to someone else’s narrow vision of race…

Read the entire article here.

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Pride, no prejudice: we’re young, Jewish and black

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United Kingdom on 2019-02-01 16:22Z by Steven

Pride, no prejudice: we’re young, Jewish and black

The Jewish Chronicle
London, United Kingdom
2019-01-31

Karen Glaser

Yasmin Bowen (left) and Vivien Sinclair
Yasmin Bowen (left) and Vivien Sinclair (Photo: Benjamin Mole)

Drake, Sophie Okenado and Craig David: three big name examples of Jews who are black. So why do so many people assume all Jews are white? Karen Glaser met some teens who challenge that stereotype.

On Shabbat, frummers often stop Lia Grant on the streets of the Jewish neighbourhood where she lives and ask her to ring doorbells and switch on ovens for them. They preface their requests with a quick explanation of Shabbat and the type of work they are prohibited from doing on Judaism’s day of rest.

However, what they do not know is that far from being a potential Shabbos goy, Lia is a fellow Jew. So by asking her to work, her frum interlocutors are inadvertently committing a serious transgression: they are entreating someone who is obligated to keep Shabbat, to violate it.

“When I tell them I’m Jewish, very awkward shock washes over their faces,” says the JCoss sixth former whose mother is Jewish, Israeli and Nigerian, and whose father is Nigerian and Scottish.

It was a similar story when Lia first joined the Jewish secondary. “Are you Jewish?” her classmates would ask her. And six years later, her intersectional identity often elicits a similar response from non-Jews: “Wow! There’s such a thing as a black Jew?”…

Read the entire article here.

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Alice Walker’s Terrible Anti-Semitic Poem Felt Personal — to Her and to Me

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2018-12-31 01:42Z by Steven

Alice Walker’s Terrible Anti-Semitic Poem Felt Personal — to Her and to Me

Intelligencer
New York Magazine
2018-12-28

Nylah Burton


Photo: Peter Earl McCollough/The New York Times/Redux

When I first read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, I leaned into every word, inhaling Celie’s tragic and triumphant story. In Celie, I felt the presence and pain of my female family members brought up in rural Alabama. In Walker’s unflinching descriptions of misogyny, domestic violence, homophobia, and incest, I saw an open accounting of issues buried deep within the larger southern black community — and within my own family.

Above all, I was drawn into The Color Purple because it was haunted by ghosts — the ghosts of Alice Walker’s past. Eloquently and bravely, she was able to confront generational trauma by telling a universal tale that still felt faithful to her own story. And it was Walker’s ability to throw open the shutters and allow her ghosts — our ghosts — into her writing that made it so revelatory. It cemented her standing as an acclaimed novelist, a civil-rights icon, and a formidable thought leader in the field of black feminism.

That changed abruptly two weeks ago, after the New York Times invited Walker to list her favorite books in its weekly “By the Book” column. She took the opportunity to promote David Icke’s And the Truth Shall Set You Free, which contains some of the most hateful anti-Semitic lies ever to be printed between covers. As excerpted in the Washington Post, Icke’s book alleged that a “small Jewish clique” had created the Russian Revolution and both World Wars, and “coldly calculated” the Holocaust to boot. Icke has also accused Jews (among others) of being alien lizard people. After a week of criticism, Walker doubled down in her assessment of Icke’s indefensible work, calling him “brave” and dismissing charges of anti-Semitism as an attack on the pro-Palestinian cause…


From left: Mel Leventhal, Rebecca Walker, and Alice Walker, 1970. Photo: CSU Archives/Everett Collection

…In 1967, Alice Walker married a young Jewish civil-rights lawyer named Mel Leventhal. Their interracial marriage — the first such legal union in the state of Mississippi — was still illegal in Walker’s home state of Georgia at the time. Leventhal’s mother was also deeply opposed to the union, and his other family members didn’t allow Alice to attend family events. “Leaving no question about how she felt about her son’s marriage to a shvartse (a pejorative Yiddish term for a black person), Miriam Leventhal sat shiva for her son, mourning him as dead,” Evelyn White writes in Alice Walker: A Life. A source who knows the family told me that Mel preferred to ignore rather than confront his family’s bigotry. This caused Walker to feel increasingly isolated and resentful. The marriage ended in 1976, after the pair had one daughter together, named Rebecca

Read the entire article here.

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The Illusion and Elusiveness of Whiteness: Between Politics and Polemics

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2018-12-27 05:08Z by Steven

The Illusion and Elusiveness of Whiteness: Between Politics and Polemics

ISGAP: Flashpoint
Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy
2018-12-04, Flashpoint 52

Katya Gibel Mevorach, Professor in the Anthropology Department; Chair of the American Studies Concentration
Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa


Katya Gibel Mevorach is a Professor in the Anthropology Department and the Chair of the American Studies Concentration at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. She earned her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University. Prof. Gibel Mevorach received her BA and MA in African Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

The tenor of “identity politics and polemics” has lost listeners even as the tone of debates has intensified: there is a dialectic of tuning in and out of conversations about whether Jews who look white are, in fact, White? The argument, which gained media traction over the last twenty years – a relatively short period of time for some, but a lifetime for millennials – latched on to the phrase “white Jews” set in juxtaposition to “Jews of color” and “Black Jews.” These expressions may have insinuated themselves into the Jewish forum, but they foolishly ignore Jewish and general history. Too many Jews overlook the significance of scientific racism in Nazi ideology and among white supremacists as well as the simple fact that in all racist societies, ancestry always trumps appearance. This is a central lesson from places where domestic genocide (e.g., Belfast, Kigali and Sarajevo) confounds “outsiders” who do not “see” physical distinctions that locals presume to be obvious.

“Whiteness” in America is not and has never been self-evident – and that is the point of passing: of not revealing information that would reposition someone from “being white” to “not quite white” or “not white” at all.[1] This difference between looking white (appearance) and being white (an existential registry of racial purity) inspired the subtitle of my book “…not the color of your skin but the race of your kin.”[2] It is this difference that was forcefully communicated by white supremacists in Charlottesville and reiterated in Pittsburgh to the consternation of some Jews who feel entitled to whiteness and cry mea culpa while enjoying its privilege.

The desire to identify as white remains astounding to a few people, like me, who were born in the United States only because one of their Jewish parents was among the lucky few to escape Nazi Europe on a passport listing “Jew” as his or her Race. Once upon a time, not long ago, there was a simple question: are you a Jew or are you white? And the answer might have been: I am a Jew and I am perceived as a white person to the extent that I am not too visibly Jewish [i.e. assimilated]

Read the entire article here.

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JewAsian: race, religion, and identity for America’s Newest Jews [Review]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2018-11-01 02:37Z by Steven

JewAsian: race, religion, and identity for America’s Newest Jews [Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 40, 2017 – Issue 13
pages 2380-2382
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2017.1329544

Hasia R. Diner, Paul And Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History
New York University

Helen Kiyong Kim and Noah Samuel Leavitt, JewAsian: Race, Religion, and Identity for America’s Newest Jews (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016).

Sociologists Helen Kiyong Kim and Noah Samuel Leavitt, a married couple, he of Jewish background, presumably European, and she of Korean derivation, have, with this slim book, launched an important topic for further research and scholarly inquiry. The two authors explore here, using the conventional methods of sociological study, a trend, presumably new and emblematic of postmodernity. This trend can be accessed by even the most casual readers nearly every Sunday in the wedding announcements in The New York Times‘ Style section. Like JewAsian—obviously a neologism—The Times postings chronicle the not uncommon phenomenon of, for the most part, Jewish men, bearers of identifiable Jewish surnames, marrying women marked by their names and by the accompanying photographs identifiable as Asian, primarily individuals who themselves or their forbears hailed from China, Korea, and Vietnam.

The text of the wedding announcements, besides detailing the usually impressive occupations and educational backgrounds of bride and groom, and those of their parents, fit well with this fascinating book. Nearly all the nuptial notices indicate that a rabbi or cantor will be officiating at the ceremony, indicating that Jews, certainly the non-Orthodox among them who constitute the American majority, have embraced this emerging reality of marriages across lines of race, ethnicity, and religion. So too the fact that the brides in these marriages have chosen to have their unions solemnized by a member of the Jewish clergy, rather than by someone representing Christianity or Buddhism or any other religious tradition associated with Asian and Asian American culture, represents an important contemporary reality which Kim and Leavitt explore in their book.

The wedding announcements, like the much publicized union between FaceBook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, sweethearts since their Harvard days and like the data presented in JewAsian, point to the trend by which the non-Jewish, Asian women who marry Jewish men become integrated and absorbed into the fabric of American Jewish life. Kim and Leavitt, who for the most part leave out the details of their personal journey as an Asian and Jewish couple, focusing carefully on the pairs whom they interviewed, do appropriately indicate in the Preface that they met and fell in love while graduate students at the University of Chicago…

Read or purchase the review here.

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How I Finally Learned To Accept Both My Chinese And Jewish Identities

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2018-05-28 23:07Z by Steven

How I Finally Learned To Accept Both My Chinese And Jewish Identities

The Huffington Post
2018-05-22

Gen Slosberg
Guest Writer

To be mixed and a woman meant my appearance was of the foremost importance to everyone around me.
Gen Slosberg
To be mixed and a woman meant my appearance was of the foremost importance to everyone around me.

Growing up in China, I never quite understood why I didn’t fit in.

I ate Chinese food, went to Chinese school, had Chinese friends and did Chinese things. I memorized poems and Confucius passages at school and learned how to play the zither. At night, my grandma would sit next to my bed, fan away mosquitoes with her bamboo fan and sing nursery rhymes about the summer rain in Cantonese. On weekends, I would wake up early to watch my neighbor roll dumpling dough and my mom cut green onions into small pieces for the filling.

What little exposure I had to American culture was when my Jewish-American father would come home after monthslong business trips and read me Dr. Seuss. Until I was 15, my understanding of America consisted of vague memories of The Boy and The Apple Tree, summer trips to my dad’s hometown Portland, Maine, where his white relatives would look at me in wonder and express concern for my broken English.

I was, as far as I understood, Chinese. But as far as everyone else in China was concerned, I was only white, Jewish and American because of my father. For reasons incomprehensible to me at the time, I was “different” in the eyes of those in a society so emphatic about its homogeneity…

Read the entire article here.

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