“Diversity” Won’t Challenge Jewry’s Role in White Supremacy

“Diversity” Won’t Challenge Jewry’s Role in White Supremacy

Jewschool: Progressive Jews & Views

Mark Tseng Putterman
New York, New York

In addition to my own mother, “Linda” was the only other Asian American woman at the Reform synagogue I grew up attending. It was a friendly, liberal, and white Jewish space in our affluent New England suburb, a space where I often felt welcome while always, at some level, aware that I could count the number of people of color in our synagogue on one hand. That didn’t stop my indomitable mother from becoming more and more invested in our Jewish community. But amidst her drive and commitment to her adopted community was a twinge of cynicism: when she became our temple’s president, she joked that she only did it so that people would finally stop confusing her with Linda.

I wonder — would our temple peers have been better able to decipher my mother’s “foreign” face  if there were simply more of us? Would a more diverse congregation have prepared our white, liberal, and colorblind community to address the realities of racism for Jewish youth of color like myself? To prepare my youth leader to unpack why El Al security singled me out for questioning during my 9th grade trip to Israel? Or to provide my white Jewish peer with the language with which to challenge the Hasidic man who questioned her of my presence on our flight there?…

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