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.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-05-25 02:44Z by Steven

“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.” —Tema Smith

Ruth Abusch-Magder, Three Things the Jewish Community Can Do Better, According to a Mixed-Race Jewish Professional, My Jewish Learning, May 23, 2018. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/jewish-and/three-things-the-jewish-community-can-do-better-according-to-a-mixed-race-jewish-professional/.

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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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This Passover Choose Judaism

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-03-16 01:53Z by Steven

This Passover Choose Judaism

My Jewish Learning
Be’chol Lashon
2015-03-10

Alex Barnett

My wife and I are an interracial couple. I am a White, Ashkenazi Jewish man from New York. She is a Black woman from Detroit, raised in the Lutheran faith, who converted (to Jewish, not to White. She’s still Black). Our 3 year old Biracial son is Jewish.

When I talk about my wife’s conversion, rather than saying she converted I like to say that she’s Jewish by choice. I do this because conversion sounds like the process by which a sofa becomes an uncomfortable bed. Or it sounds like something that happens by magic. I wave my magic wand and “poof” you’re Jewish. Whereas being a Jewish person by choice requires a conscious affirmative decision.

And make no mistake, being Jewish is a choice, whether you were born into our Tribe or whether you joined us midway through the show…

Read the entire article here.

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Intermarriage and Multicultural Families

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2013-01-01 03:53Z by Steven

Intermarriage and Multicultural Families

My Jewish Learning
2012-12-13

Ruth Abusch-Magder, Rabbi-in-Residence
Be’chol Lashon, San Francisco, California

Like it or not, intermarriage is a fact in Jewish life.

And for the most part the Jewish community has learned to live with it. Sure, different movements deal with it differently. Sure, some congregations are more adept and accommodating. But from Renewal to Orthodox we no longer assume that a Jew by birth will marry another Jew by birth.
 
But as demographics shift in the United States, the nature of intermarriage is changing too. And the Jewish community will need to adapt if it hopes to continue to create spaces for these new Jewish families.
 
In particular, my concern is with multiracial and multicultural families. There is nothing new about Jews from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. There were Jews in Ethiopia centuries before there were Jews in Poland and Jews in India before there were Jews in Spain. Jewish institutional life in the United States, however, has largely been built on the presumption that Jews are white. And our welcome to interfaith couples has similarly assumed that intermarriages between one white Jew and one white non-Jew…

Read the entire article here.

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