Multiracial Jews Moving Beyond Isolation

Multiracial Jews Moving Beyond Isolation

The Jewish Week

Julie Wiener, Associate Editor

Now 12 percent of the community, racially diverse Jewish households making their way into mainstream — but still less ‘engaged’ than others.

When Rabbi/Cantor Angela Buchdahl was growing up — the daughter of a white Jewish father and a Korean-American mother — she and her sister “always felt like the ‘only ones’” that were non-white in Jewish settings.

Today, her three children attend the Abraham Joshua Heschel School, and each is in a class with at least one other mixed-race Asian. “And there are other races as well,” she noted.

Meanwhile at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, where Buchdahl is a member of the clergy, there are at least 20 families with Jews of color, not counting Sephardic or Mizrachi Jews…

…Rabbi/Cantor Buchdahl’s observations are reflected in the comprehensive UJA-Federation of New York population study released this week. The first Jewish population study to ask about race, it finds that approximately 12 percent — or 87,000 — of New York Jewish households are “multiracial or nonwhite.”

This category includes households in which survey respondents were both Jewish and black, Hispanic, Asian or biracial, or in which white Jewish respondents reported that their household is bi- or multiracial. “As a group they are divided almost equally among four groups: Hispanic respondents, Black respondents, white respondents with biracial households, and biracial respondents, with small numbers of others (for example, Asian-American respondents),” the study reports.

In short, the category encompasses a wide range of profiles — among them interracial couples and their children, adult children of interracial couples, white couples with non-white adopted children and non-whites who were either born Jewish or converted to Judaism. And it is not clear how many families fit each profile…

…But there is no typical multiracial Jewish family: the category represents a mix of races and ethnicities, as well as a wide range of family and national backgrounds everywhere on the spectrum of Jewish observance.

“To call everyone ‘Jews of color’ is really a disservice because there’s so much variation,” said Diane Tobin, director of Be’chol Lashon, a San Francisco-based group that conducts research and offers various programs throughout the United States, including an overnight summer camp for multiracial Jewish children. “Between intermarriage, conversion and adoption, there’s so many different paths and ways people are identifying as being Jews.”…

Read the entire article here.

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