Growing up, as a mixed race child, with survivor grandparents

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Europe, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2022-03-15 22:27Z by Steven

Growing up, as a mixed race child, with survivor grandparents

Forward
2022-03-08

Kyla Kupferstein
Oakland, California

Courtesy of Kyla Kupferstein
Kyla with her grandmother Fela and grandfather Hershl

As a child growing up in the 1970s and 80s, my younger brother David and I did everything in Manhattan: it was where we lived, went to school and played with our friends.

Except for the weekends when my parents would take us to visit my grandparents in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. Buba Fela and Zayda Hershl lived in the Amalgamated Houses on Sedgwick Avenue – a cooperative apartment complex that functioned like a reassembled shtetl, a Yiddish-speaking community of Jews from Eastern Europe who had somehow escaped or survived the Nazi genocide and lived to tell the tale.

As my brother and I (known at our grandparents’ home as Kylashi and Davittle) sat at our grandparents’ kitchen table, we were fed a steady diet of Holocaust talk. “The war,” they called it, when they spoke English, which they did only for us. Hitler, Stalin, the camps – all these were a part of their normal vocabulary. And their neighbors, some who had been my grandparents’ friends back in Warsaw, most of them Bundists ranging from agnostic to atheist, were the closest thing to an extended family that we had.

Unlike many other survivors who kept silent because they couldn’t bear to revisit the atrocities, everyone in this community told their stories openly; we waited for those stories, just as we waited for Buba’s misshapen cookies and trips to the sprinklers in Van Cortlandt Park. Countless times we heard the story of how they left: when young men were urged to leave Warsaw because of Hitler’s imminent arrival, my Zayda, Herschel, decided he couldn’t leave without his love, Fela. Her grandfather quickly married them, and they fled to Russia, innocently believing it would be safe for them as socialists. But they were arrested at the Russian border, and then jailed separately in Stalin’s prisons in Siberia

Read the entire article here.

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Whoopi Goldberg’s American Idea of Race

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2022-02-07 21:05Z by Steven

Whoopi Goldberg’s American Idea of Race

The Atlantic
2022-02-03

Adam Serwer, Staff Writer

Larry Busacca / Getty; The Atlantic

The “racial” distinctions between master and slave may be more familiar to Americans, but they were and are no more real than those between Gentile and Jew.

It made sense, to the New York Daily News sports editor, that these guys dominated basketball. After all, “the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smartalecness,” not to mention their “God-given better balance and speed.”

He was referring, of course, to the Jews.

In the 1930s, Paul Gallico was trying to explain away Jewish dominance of basketball. He came up with the idea that the game’s structure simply appealed to the immutable traits of wily Hebrews and their scheming minds. It sounds strange to the ear now, but only because our stereotypes about who is inherently good at particular sports have shifted. His theory is not any more or less insightful now than it was then; his confidence should remind us to be skeptical of similar, supposedly explanatory arguments that abound today.

Looking back at old stereotypes is a useful exercise; it can help illustrate the arbitrary nature of the concept of “race,” and how such identities shift even as people insist on their permanence and infallibility. Because race is not real, it is malleable enough to be made to serve the needs of those with the power to define it, the certainties of one generation giving way to the contradictory dogmas of another.

Whoopi Goldberg, the actor and a co-host of The View, stumbled into a public-relations nightmare for ABC on Monday when she insisted that “the Holocaust wasn’t about race.” After an episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert aired in which she opined that “the Nazis were white people, and most of the people they were attacking were white people,” she was temporarily suspended from The View. She has apologized for her remarks…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Once We Were Slaves’ examines fluidity of race through a Jewish lens

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2022-02-01 03:59Z by Steven

‘Once We Were Slaves’ examines fluidity of race through a Jewish lens

Forward
2022-01-28

TaRessa Stovall

Courtesy of Laura Arnold Leibman

Have you heard the story of the Jewish mother and children who were born enslaved in the Caribbean and became some of the wealthiest Jews in New York?

Professor Laura Arnold Leibman was researching Jewish communities in Barbados when she discovered two small ivory portraits belonging to a Jewish heiress from New York. She traced the family’s ancestors back to Bridgetown, Barbados in the 1700s. But instead of discovering an exclusively Sephardic ancestry, she uncovered a much more complex story of a diverse Jewish family whose identities were impacted by time and place.

Her findings became the book, “Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Posted in Articles, Biography, Judaism, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 15:30Z by Steven

Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Forward
2022-01-07

TaRessa Stovall

This undated file photo shows Lani Guinier(C), President Clinton’s nominee to head the U.S. Civil Rights office of the U.S.
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images

Lani Guinier, the daughter of a white Jewish mother and Black Panamanian father whose nomination by President Clinton to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was opposed by mainstream Jewish organizations, died on Friday.

Guinier, who went on to become the first Black woman on the Harvard Law School faculty as well as its first woman of color given a tenured post, succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Boston Globe.

Carrie Johnson, who covers the Justice Department for National Public Radio, tweeted a message from Harvard Law School Dean John Manning confirming Guinier’s death and praising her.

“Her scholarship changed our understanding of democracy – of why and how the voices of the historically underrepresented must be heard and what it takes to have a meaningful right to vote,” Manning’s message said. The dean’s letter to the school community said she died surrounded by friends and family…

Read the entire article here.

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Who’s Afraid of Lani Guinier?

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Judaism, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2022-01-11 15:17Z by Steven

Who’s Afraid of Lani Guinier?

The New York Times Magazine
1994-02-27

Lani Guinier

For a late April day in Washington, the air was remarkably soft. The sun-splashed courtyard of the Department of Justice seemed a reflection of the glow surrounding Attorney General Janet Reno. She had just returned from a successful venture to Capitol Hill, where she faced down a committee upset about the recent confrontation with the Branch Davidians. I stood with six other Justice Department nominees to be presented to the public. In what we were told was a last-minute decision, the President himself was to make the presentations. We gathered in the hallway next to the courtyard stage and were lined up in the order we would be introduced. We were given our instructions, and then the President arrived.

The President had a regal bearing. I remember he was wearing a beautifully tailored blue suit. As he strode down the row of nervous nominees he greeted each of us in his typically physical style. He grasped my hand, congratulated me and kissed me lightly on the cheek. As he moved to the others I remember overhearing one of the nominees pass on a greeting from an old friend from Arkansas. The President stepped back and said, with a wistful look in his eye: “I remember Steve. That was when I had a real life.” And I remember the nominee’s response: “Mr. President, this is real life.”

As we were introduced there were cheers and signs saying “Atta girl, Janet!” and the like. I saw many old friends from the Civil Rights Division, where I had worked during the Carter Administration, giving the thumbs-up and smiling. I had not been back in the courtyard in 12 years, and now here I was accepting the nomination to head the Civil Rights Division…

Read the entire article here.

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On Passing and Not Trying to Pass

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2021-12-14 02:52Z by Steven

On Passing and Not Trying to Pass

My Jewish Learning
2015-07-22

Tema Smith

I am black, and I am Jewish.

I’ve always found comfort in the and of my identity — that simple part of speech that joins together two disparate things: two families, two histories, two cultures, two heritages, two skin colors, two lineages of trauma, two pathways to North America. As the offspring of both, I am equally neither.

Lately, I spend a lot of time within the proverbial “walls” of the organized Jewish community. As a Jewish professional, my day-to-day life is dedicated to synagogue operations — specifically, membership and communications. While in many ways I am “at home” in the Jewish community, to this day I still feel out of place within the communal mainstream. And, contradictory as it may seem, it is the fact that I can easily pass for the Ashkenazi majority that leaves me feeling this way.

I should say: I never asked to pass. The fact that I can walk into Jewish settings and instantly fit in leaves me with a bad taste. At the same time, I remember recognizing my own thoughts when I read Katya Gibel Azoulay quote her son in her seminal book, Black, Jewish, and Interracial: It’s Not the Color of Your Skin, but the Race of Your Kin, and Other Myths of Identity: “I’m not going to put up a sign that says I’m black just to be accepted,” she relays, writing, “as far as he was concerned, the idea of ‘learning how to act Black’ was the theater of the absurd.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Black Judaism

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, United States on 2021-11-15 16:06Z by Steven

Black Judaism

The St. Louis American
2021-11-12

Danielle Brown, Reporter

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s book “The Disordered Cosmos” was inspired by a collection of essays she wrote addressing how race, gender and bias shape how science is done specifically in physics and astronomy. She said it was based on writing she did online and for some print publications. However, she said the book transformed into what she always dreamed of doing as a teenager, which was to write a book about particle physics and astronomy for people from her community.

Black authors’ works about astronomy, domestic violence featured in Jewish book fest

Judaism faith believers and individuals curious about religion can attend this year’s 43rd Annual St. Louis Jewish Book Fest virtually or in person at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex in Creve Coeur.

Ross’ book “Playing Dead” narrates how the marriage to her high school sweetheart became a horrific nightmare that resulted in domestic violence, abuse, endless stalking, and a traumatizing near-death experience.

The relationship became so toxic she moved her and their three kids from the house. She thought that was the right move to make for her and her children’s safety. Until one morning her husband Chris kidnapped her in front of their kids. He took her to the woods, raped her, beat her mercilessly in the head with a shovel and left her body in the woods assuming she was dead. She wasn’t, she played dead to get out alive…

Monique Faison Ross’ book “Playing Dead” narrates how the marriage to her high school sweetheart became a horrific nightmare that resulted in domestic violence, abuse, endless stalking, and a traumatizing near-death experience.

…Prescod-Weinstein’s book “The Disordered Cosmos” was inspired by a collection of essays she wrote addressing how race, gender and bias shape how science is done specifically in physics and astronomy. She said the book transformed into what she always dreamed of doing as a teenager, which was to write a book about particle physics and astronomy for people of her community.

“My point of view of the book is a holistic look at the doing of particle physics, the doing of astronomy,” she said. “Not just through the lens of what are the things we’re calculating, what are the ideas that we’re working through on a technical level, but how it works as a culture and a social phenomenon.” she said.

One of Prescod-Weinstein’s themes for her book is having the fundamental right to love the night sky. She said it comes from her mother, Margaret Prescod, a Black feminist with experience in organizing, who said people need to know there’s a universe beyond the bad things that are happening. She said her comment came after protests and unrest occurred following the murder of an African American killed by police…

Read the entire article here.

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Book Talk-Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Posted in Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States, Videos on 2021-10-25 17:39Z by Steven

Book Talk-Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

American Jewish Historical Society
2021-08-04

Author Laura Arnold Leibman discusses her new book with Gender and Jewish Studies Professor, Samira K. Mehta. Hear how family heirlooms were used to unlock the mystery of the Moses’s Family ancestors in, Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family.

Tracing an extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac Moses were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and—at times—white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived.

Watch the video (00:56:47) here.

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No Silence on Race

Posted in Articles, Canada, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice on 2021-10-22 14:26Z by Steven

No Silence on Race

Be’chol Lashon
2021-10-19

Team Be’chol Lashon

No Silence on Race is a movement born of the necessity for both racial equity and inclusivity within Canadian Jewish spaces.

This month Periphery, an exhibition about Jews of Color (JOC) opened in Toronto, Canada. A collaboration between the group No Silence on Race and the Ontario Jewish Archives, Periphery shares the voices and faces of Canadian Jews who are often not seen in the mainstream presentations of Jewish life. We at Be’chol Lashon sat down with members of the No Silence on Race team to learn more about them and their work.

Team Be’chol Lashon: Tell us a little about yourselves

The No Silence on Race core team is Sara Yacobi-Harris, Akilah-Allen Silverstein and Yoni Belete. We are 3 young professionals based in Toronto, Canada…

Read the entire interview here.

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Born into slavery, they rose to be elite New York Jews. A new book tells their story.

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2021-10-08 14:05Z by Steven

Born into slavery, they rose to be elite New York Jews. A new book tells their story.

Religion News Service
2021-10-05

Yonat Shimron, National Reporter and Senior Editor


Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family” and author Laura Arnold Leibman. Courtesy images

In her new book, ‘Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family,’ Laura Arnold Leibman shows that Jews were not only slave owners. They were also slaves.

(RNS) — Jews are proud of the biblical story from Exodus that recounts their deliverance from slavery in Egypt in the third century B.C.

But few U.S. Jews consider that some of their ancestors were slaves in the trans-Atlantic slave trade that ended in the 19th century.

In her new book, “Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family,” Laura Arnold Leibman, a Reed College English professor, conclusively shows that Jews, who were typically thought of as white, were not only slave owners. They were also slaves.

Leibman does this by excavating the genealogies of Sarah and Isaac Lopez Brandon, siblings born in the late 18th century to a wealthy Barbadian Jewish businessman and an enslaved woman. The siblings eventually made it New York, where they were able to pass as white. They became accomplished and affluent members of New York City’s oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel.

Sarah and Isaac’s father, Abraham Rodriguez Brandon, was a Sephardic Jew who traced his ancestry to the expulsion of Jews from Spain. He settled in Barbados as part of a Jewish community of between 400 and 500 families that worked on the island’s sugar plantations and refineries.

Brandon secured his children’s manumission fees, and in 1801 they became “free mulattos.” In Barbados, that still meant they could not vote or hold office, or for that matter be married in the island’s synagogue or buried in its cemetery.

But America was kinder to them. Both Sarah and Isaac immigrated to America and married into prominent and wealthy U.S. Jewish families while hiding their past. One granddaughter had no clue about their origins.

Religion News Service talked to Leibman about her discovery of the Brandon genealogy and what it means for the U.S. Jewish community to grapple with its multiracial past and present. The interview was edited for length and clarity…

Read the entire interview here.

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