Prayer, and Bug Juice, at a Summer Camp for Jews of Color

Prayer, and Bug Juice, at a Summer Camp for Jews of Color

The New York Times

Samuel G. Freedman, Professor of Journalism
Columbia University

PETALUMA, Calif. — On Sabbath morning, as fog still hung over the valley, the campers walked past the Torrey pines and blackberry bushes toward the garden. There, several rows of chairs had been arranged in front of an altar fashioned from a folding table covered with Senegalese cloth and a Torah scroll on loan from an Orthodox synagogue.

About 15 minutes into the service, two girls rose to lead the congregation in a series of prayers. “Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu, melech ha-olam, she’asani Yisrael,” they said. Then they switched to the English translation: “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has made me a Jew.”

In all its ordinariness, as a standard part of liturgy, the assertion could hardly have been bolder, coming as it did from Amalia Cymrot-Wu and her camp buddy Maya Campbell. Maya is the daughter of an interracial black-white marriage, Amalia the product of Brazilian and Chinese bloodlines, and they were matter-of-factly proclaiming their place among the Jewish people…

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