Black, Jewish and challenging ideas about the face of federation

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-28 17:33Z by Steven

Black, Jewish and challenging ideas about the face of federation

Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
New York, New York

Rebecca Spence

(JTA) — When Ilana Kaufman, a program officer at the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, arrived at San Quentin State Prison for a meeting with the Jewish chaplain at California’s oldest correctional facility, the chaplain couldn’t seem to find her — even though Kaufman was standing in plain sight.

As Kaufman waited in the receiving area, a security officer by her side, the spiritual leader of the prison community — largely composed of men of color — turned her head left and right trying to locate the federation representative whose name she knew but whose face she had never seen.

“Finally the officer says, ‘Chaplain, this person standing right next to me,’” Kaufman recalled. “And the chaplain says, ‘You know, you are not who I expected.’”

It wasn’t the first time that Kaufman, 42, had heard such a comment…

Read the entire article here.

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Op-Ed: For black Orthodox Jews, constant racism is exhausting

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-07-28 17:20Z by Steven

Op-Ed: For black Orthodox Jews, constant racism is exhausting

Jewish Telegraphic Agency
New York, New York

Chava Shervington, President
Jewish Multiracial Network

NEW YORK (JTA) – When I was 24, an Orthodox matchmaker tried to set me up on a date with a man older than my parents. When I objected, she told me, “Stop being so picky. Not many guys are willing to consider a black girl.”

As an African-American Orthodox Jew, this was hardly my first encounter with the questionable treatment I and my fellow Jews of color endure.

“Why is the goy here?” one black Jewish parent overheard when taking her child to a Jewish children’s event.

At one yeshiva in Brooklyn, the mother of a biracial student was asked to stay away from the school because it made the other parents uncomfortable.

An African-American acquaintance told me he overheard a worshiper at morning minyan talk about how he didn’t want to daven with a “shvartze” – while my acquaintance was putting on his tefillin.

Orthodox society is a beautiful community dedicated to charity, Torah learning and growth through observance of mitzvahs – and I believe we’re better than this racism suggests…

Read the entire article here.

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“The Book of Colors”

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-28 02:49Z by Steven

“The Book of Colors”

Duke Divinity School News
Durham, North Carolina
Wednesday, 2015-05-13

Ray Barfield, associate professor of pediatrics and Christian philosophy at Duke Divinity School, has written his first novel, “The Book of Colors,” about a 19-year-old mixed race pregnant girl who faces poverty and finds redemption in an unlikely community of skid row houses near Memphis, Tenn.

Published by Unbridled Books in May, the book grew from Dr. Barfield’s experience of the importance of story-telling as a physician and teacher. He holds a joint appointment with the Divinity School and Duke University Medical School. At the Divinity School, he is one of the leaders of interdisciplinary initiatives that bring together students and faculty across the humanities, medicine, and theology. Barfield also practices pediatric oncology and leads the pediatric palliative care program at the medical school.

The novel’s central character Yslea was raised in a crack-house and struggles to express her thoughts, but learns to overcome the pain and suffering she sees around her in her own quiet way. While reeling from the death of her mother, she wanders into a local clapboard community, presided over by an aging, generous woman named Rose and charming young Jimmy, for whom ethics are often an impediment to worldly advancement…

Read the entire article here.

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Meet the black woman raised to believe she was white

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-07-27 00:28Z by Steven

Meet the black woman raised to believe she was white

The Telegraph

Jane Mulkerrins

Schwartz believes that racial identity is “fluid and contextual” Photo: Nicholas Calcott

Growing up, Lacey Schwartz always felt different. It wasn’t until her late teens that she discovered the truth about her parentage – and her race

“Throughout my life, people have asked me why I look the way I do,” says Lacey Schwartz. “I would tell them that my parents were white, which was true. I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t. I grew up being told, and believing, that I was the nice, white, Jewish daughter of two nice, white, Jewish parents.”

But Schwartz, a 38-year-old film-maker, has brown skin, curly hair and full lips. It was only when she was 18 that her mother admitted the truth: that she had had an affair with a friend and former colleague who was black. And that, in all likelihood, he was Lacey’s biological father.

The revelation not only shook her relationship with her mother to the core, but also led Schwartz to question everything she had believed about who she was, and eventually inspired her to make a documentary about the experience, called Little White Lie.

“I started out wanting to make a film about being black and Jewish, because I was really struggling with my dual identity,” she says. “But I was living in a racial closet at the time that was all about my family secret. So I decided to use the film as a way to fully uncover the secret.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Oreo: A Comeback Story

Posted in Audio, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-25 01:55Z by Steven

Oreo: A Comeback Story

On The Media
New York, New York
Friday, 2015-07-17

Mythili Rao, Host and Producer

Guests: Mat Johnson, Harryette Mullen, Mark Anthony Neal and Danzy Senna

In 1974, Fran Ross published her first and only novel, “Oreo.” The satirical tale of a biracial teenager’s Theseus-style quest to find her father was almost completely overlooked in its era. Now, more than 4 decades later, its re-issue is being met with critical praise. Producer Mythili Rao explores why Ross’s take on racial identity was so ahead of its time.

Listen to the interview (00:10:58) here.

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Review: ‘Oreo,’ a Sandwich-Cookie of a Feminist Comic Novel

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-25 00:59Z by Steven

Review: ‘Oreo,’ a Sandwich-Cookie of a Feminist Comic Novel

The New York Times

Dwight Garner

Fran Ross’s first and only novel, “Oreo,” was published in 1974, four years after Toni Morrison’sThe Bluest Eye” and two years before Alex Haley’sRoots.” It wasn’t reviewed in The New York Times; it was hardly reviewed anywhere.

It’s interesting to imagine an alternative history of African-American fiction in which this wild, satirical and pathbreaking feminist picaresque caught the ride it deserved in the culture. Today it would be where it belongs, up among the 20th century’s lemony comic classics, novels that range from “Lucky Jim” and “Cold Comfort Farm” to “Catch-22” and “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

These sorts of lists have been for too long, to borrow a line from the TV show “black-ish,” whiter than the inside of Conan O’Brien’s thigh.

“Oreo” might have changed how we thought about a central strand of our literature’s DNA. As the novelist Danzy Senna puts it in her introduction to this necessary reissue: “ ‘Oreo’ resists the unwritten conventions that still exist for novels written by black women today. There’s nothing redemptively uplifting about her work. The title doesn’t refer to the Bible or the blues. The work does not refer to slavery. The character is never violated, sexually or otherwise. The characters are not from the South.”

Instead, in “Oreo” Ms. Ross is simply flat-out fearless and funny and sexy and sublime. It makes a kind of sense that, when this novel didn’t find an audience, its author moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s to write for Richard Pryor

Read the review here.

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Mixed Race Irish: ‘We were the dust to be swept away’

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive, Religion, Social Work on 2015-07-19 16:56Z by Steven

Mixed Race Irish: ‘We were the dust to be swept away’

The Irish Times

Kitty Holland, Staff Reporter

‘I lived in a state of pure terror’: Rosemary Adaser, co-founder of the group Mixed Race Irish. Photograph: Joanne O’Brien

Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation urged to confront the racism endured by children taken into care and abused because they had a non-white parent

In October 1958, when Rosemary Adaser was admitted, as an 18-month-old, to a mother-and-baby home in Dublin, her admission notes described her as “illegitimate and coloured”. Fifteen years later, when she was pregnant and sent to a mother-and-baby home in Co Meath, they described her as “rather mature for her age; accepts her colour well”.

“My file is peppered with references to my colour,” she says. “The racism was relentless and brutalising. My formative years were devastated by it.”

Adaser is one of about 70 mixed-race people who have come together in the past few years as Mixed Race Irish, a campaign and support group. They believe they were taken into care because they were mixed race, that there was a different unspoken “policy” for them and that they suffered an “extra layer of abuse” because of their racial identity. They say racism was endemic, systemic and systematic, in the care system and in Irish society, and that their experiences were particular to them…

…Like other mixed-race Irish children in the mother-and-baby homes, she was never offered for adoption. She believes this was policy, based on a presumption that nobody would want to adopt a mixed-race baby. Instead she was fostered, or boarded out. “When I was four I was sent to a couple in their 60s. No, they weren’t vetted. They were invited to select a child. People were paid by the State to take in children. This couple had no pension, and I was an income source.

“The woman was vicious. I have a clear memory of fearing the gardening gloves, because she would go and cut branches from the rose bushes and cut the flowers off. She called me filthy and nasty and would strip me naked. I was four, remember, and she would whip me with the thorns. Years later I still had scars on my back, buttocks, stomach, legs, arms and soles of my feet, but not my face,” Adaser says. “The whippings were so bad I was hospitalised. After 18 months I was returned to St Patrick’s.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Pets, Playmates, Pedagogues (From Chapter Four of Oreo)

Posted in Articles, Books, Chapter, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-10 17:30Z by Steven

Pets, Playmates, Pedagogues (From Chapter Four of Oreo)

The Offing: A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel

Fran Ross

Oreo, Fran Ross’s ground-breaking satire, was originally published in 1974. It is being re-issued this week by New Directions, with an introduction by Danzy Senna and a foreword by Harryette Mullen. Mat Johnson of NPR called it “one of the funniest books I have ever read” and writer Paul Beatty deemed it “hilarious.” We are honored to present an excerpt of this extraordinary novel.

— The Fiction Editors

Christine and Jimmie C.

From the Jewish side of the family Christine inherited kinky hair and dark, thin skin (she was about a 7 on the color scale and touchy). From the black side of her family she inherited sharp features, rhythm, and thin skin (she was touchy). Two years after this book ends, she would be the ideal beauty of legend and folklore — name the nationality, specify the ethnic group. Whatever your legends and folklore bring to mind for beauty of face and form, she would be it, honey. Christine was no ordinary child. She was born with a caul, which her first lusty cries rent in eight. Aside from her precocity at mirror writing, she had her mother’s love of words, their nuance and cadence, their juice and pith, their variety and precision, their rock and wry. When told at an early age that she would one day have to seek out her father to learn the secret of her birth, she said, “I am going to find that motherfucker.” In her view, the last word was merely le mot juste

Read the entire chapter here.

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Oreo: Fiction by Fran Ross with a contribution by Danzy Senna and Harryette Mullen

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Religion, United States on 2015-07-10 02:32Z by Steven

Oreo: Fiction by Fran Ross with a contribution by Danzy Senna and Harryette Mullen

New Directions Publishing
2015-07-07 (originally published in 1974)
240 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780811223225
Ebook ISBN: 9780811223232

Fran Ross (1935–1985)

A pioneering, dazzling satire about a biracial black girl from Philadelphia searching for her Jewish father in New York City

Oreo is raised by her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. Her black mother tours with a theatrical troupe, and her Jewish deadbeat dad disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind a mysterious note that triggers her quest to find him. What ensues is a playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in seventies pop culture, and mixing standard English, black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb. Oreo, our young hero, navigates the labyrinth of sound studios and brothels and subway tunnels in Manhattan, seeking to claim her birthright while unwittingly experiencing and triggering a mythic journey of self-discovery like no other.

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Reclaiming Jewish Identity: An Aboriginal People of the Middle East

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-07 19:30Z by Steven

Reclaiming Jewish Identity: An Aboriginal People of the Middle East

The Huffington Post

Binyamin Arazi

Starting this September, after decades of lobbying efforts by Arab-American organizations, the United States Census Bureau will begin testing a new category for Americans of Middle Eastern and North African origin. In conjunction with this new listing, no less than 19 subcategories will be made available, including ‘Israel.’ So where does this leave Jewish Americans? Should diaspora Jews follow the example of their Israeli co-ethnics and mark “Middle Eastern/North African,” or should they take the easy way out and mark “Other” or even “White,” as most Middle Eastern and North African Americans have done up to this point? Should there be a separate “Jewish” category?

These questions are likely to confuse many readers, particularly those who are more inclined to perceive “Jewishness” as a religious identity rather than an ethnic one. Nevertheless, contrary to the widespread belief that we merely constitute a religious faith, the Jewish people are an ethnic group/tribe of Southwest Asian origin, and one of the oldest extant native peoples of the region…

Read the entire article here.

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