New Rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue ‘a Pioneer’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-01-28 18:44Z by Steven

New Rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue ‘a Pioneer’

The Wall Street Journal
2014-01-17

Sophia Hollander

Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl Is Daughter of a Korean Buddhist Immigrant and an American Jew

Growing up as the daughter of a Korean Buddhist immigrant and an American Jew in Tacoma, Wash., Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl said some family members always wondered: Could she ever be fully accepted as a Jew?

Any lingering doubts were eliminated last week when the congregation of Midtown’s historic Central Synagogue voted her to succeed Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, 71, when he retires later this year. Her appointment will take effect July 1.

Rabbi Buchdahl, who is 41, will become one of only a few women—and likely the only Asian-American—leading a major U.S. synagogue. Central Synagogue boasts 100 full-time employees and an endowment that exceeds $30 million.

“She really is a pioneer,” said Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson, president of the Wexner Foundation, which develops Jewish leaders in North America and Israel. “She represents a new generation of women.” According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest rabbinical organization in North America, about 30% of Reform-movement rabbis are women.

Her appointment comes at a critical moment for American Judaism. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that the number of U.S. adults identifying as Jewish has dropped by half since the late 1950s. Fewer than a third of Jewish adults said they belonged to a synagogue, temple or other congregation…

…In addition to her unusual cultural heritage, Rabbi Buchdahl has been quick to blur other lines. According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, she is one of only about a dozen people in the U.S. and Canada ordained as both a rabbi and a cantor

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Passing Fancies: Color, much more than race, dominated the fiction of the Harlem Renaissance

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Passing, United States on 2012-02-17 05:09Z by Steven

Passing Fancies: Color, much more than race, dominated the fiction of the Harlem Renaissance

The Wall Street Journal
2011-09-03

James Campbell

Harlem Renaissance Novels, Edited by Rafia Zafar, Library of America, 1,715 pages

Harlem in the autumn of 1924 offered a “foretaste of paradise,” according to the novelist Arna Bontemps. He was recalling the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance and was perhaps a little dazzled in retrospect—Bontemps was writing in 1965—by his memories of “strings of fairy lights” illuminating the uptown “broad avenues” at dusk.

A gloomier perspective is found in the writings of James Baldwin, born in Harlem Hospital in August 1924. His novel “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1953) and his memoir, “The Fire Next Time” (1963), both evoke a Harlem childhood dominated by poverty, fear, brutality, with the dim torch of salvation locked in a storefront church. Baldwin scarcely mentions the renaissance or its principals in all his writings—despite the remarkable coincidence of his having attended schools where two mainstays of any account of the Harlem Renaissance were teachers: the poet Countee Cullen and the novelist Jessie Redmon

…Any rebirth is bound to be bloody, and perhaps the better for it. Grudge, guilt and prejudice notwithstanding, the Harlem Renaissance produced a lot of good writing, some of it worth reading eight decades later. Almost all the novels chosen by Rafia Zafar for the Library of America’s two-volume collection contain scenes of interest, even when the interest is mainly sociological. (The exception is George Schuyler’s 1931 “Black No More,” a far-fetched, burlesque yarn about passing for white that might have been omitted in favor of Van Vechten’s “Nigger Heaven.”) The predominant theme of the majority of novels here—to the point of obsession—is not so much prejudice as plain color. Bigoted white voices are heard, but light-skinned blacks expressing distaste for their darker neighbors speak louder. As the heroine of Nella Larsen’s “Quicksand” (1928) observes: “Negro society . . . was as complicated and as rigid in its ramifications as the highest strata of white society.”

The most arresting tale, in this respect, is “The Blacker the Berry” (1929) by Wallace Thurman, in which poor Emma Lou Morgan, daughter of a “quite fair” mother, realizes that her “luscious black complexion” is despised by those around her, many of whom can pass for white. Emma Lou’s “unwelcome black mask” has been inherited from her “no good” father, who had “never been in evidence.” Ill-treatment from white students and teachers at school is bad enough; but when Emma Lou gets to Harlem, the humiliation turns to cruelty. She tries to rent a room from a West Indian woman. “A little girl had come to the door, and, in answer to a voice in the back asking, ‘Who is it, Cora?’ had replied, ‘monkey chaser wants to see the room you got to rent.’ ” Emma Lou remains, for the time being, homeless. When she shows her admiration “boldly” for an “intelligent-looking, slender, light-brown-skinned” man on Seventh Avenue, he “looked at her, then over her, and passed on.” Far worse are a group of Harlem youths who notice Emma Lou powdering her nose near the same spot…

…It was the same sigh, rather than crude shame, that led Jean Toomer to describe himself on his marriage certificate of 1931 as “white.” His exquisite sequence of prose episodes and poems, “Cane” (1923), is the earliest of the books gathered here. It requires but a sampling of Toomer’s humid Georgia prose to induce in the reader a different quality of intoxication from that brought about by the rough beverages of McKay, Hughes and Schuyler: “Karintha, at twelve, was a wild flash that told the other folks just what it was to live. At sunset, when there was no wind, and the pine-smoke from over by the sawmill hugged the earth, and you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front, her sudden darting past you was a bit of vivid color, like a black bird that flashes in light. With the other children one could hear, some distance off, their feet flopping in the two-inch dust. Karintha’s running was a whir.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Racial Identity’s Gray Area

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-08 04:40Z by Steven

Racial Identity’s Gray Area

The Wall Street Journal
2008-06-12

June Kronholz

The Definition of Whiteness Continues to Shift

When Barack Obama, whose mother was white, identifies himself as black, and when Bill Richardson, whose father was white, identifies himself as Hispanic, who is white?

The U.S. Census Bureau says the country will be majority-minority in 2050—that is, the combined number of blacks, Asians, American Indians and Hispanics will put whites in the minority. Texas and California are already there.

But the definition of white keeps shifting. Groups have been welcomed in or booted out; people opt out, sue to get in or change their minds and jump back and forth.

The deepest racial divide, between blacks and nonblacks, endures. But there also are identity shifts among African-Americans, as Sen. Obama’s success suggests. Some make it into the middle class, where education and social mobility may help shape their identities as much as race does. Others are left behind in increasingly segregated schools and neighborhoods.

The U.S. has never found it easy to assign race, although it certainly has tried. A century ago, the people who did the counting—demographers, sociologists, policy thinkers—divided whites into three strata. They considered Nordic whites, from England, Scandinavia and Germany, the most ethnically desirable and elite, followed by the Alpine whites, from eastern and central Europe, and finally the Mediterraneans. Everyone else was identified as black, red, yellow or brown, which included South Asians.

Whiteness and the privileges that came with it were so closely guarded that in 1912, a House committee held hearings on whether Italians were really Caucasian, says Thomas Guglielmo, a historian at George Washington University. The idea was picked up from Italy, where northern, lighter-skinned Italians, were asking the same questions about the southern, darker-skinned Italians, he says. No one argued seriously that Jews and Greeks, or Irish and Poles—light-skinned but poor—weren’t white, but whether they were ethnically Caucasian was up for debate, he adds…

…”Who’s white [won't] mean that much, but when someone is partly black, that will still be noticed by a large part of society,” says Bill Butz of the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington research group. He sees today’s black-white divide becoming a “black/nonblack” gulf…

…Opting Out of Whiteness

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there was “some sentiment” among non-Arabs for counting Arab-Americans as nonwhite, says David Roediger, a University of Illinois race historian. Since then, the Arab-American Institute in Washington has unsuccessfully lobbied the government for a separate “Middle East and North African” category on the census. The institute puts the Arab-American population at three times larger than the Census estimates, which limits its political power and claims on government programs… 

…The Melting-Pot Effect

That doesn’t mean race won’t matter, even as it becomes harder to define. Blacks still cannot jump back and forth across those shifting racial lines, which explains why Sen. Obama calls himself black even while he singled out his white grandmother in his speech claiming the Democratic nomination.

That’s not likely to change soon. Some demographers predict that within a century, there will be as many Americans who are mixed-race as there will be those whose parents are both of the same race, further blurring color lines. But that “hybridity,” as demographers call it, will be concentrated among Hispanics and Asians who marry whites and each other, not among blacks…

Read the entire article here.

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