Growing up, as a mixed race child, with survivor grandparents

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Europe, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2022-03-15 22:27Z by Steven

Growing up, as a mixed race child, with survivor grandparents

Forward
2022-03-08

Kyla Kupferstein
Oakland, California

Courtesy of Kyla Kupferstein
Kyla with her grandmother Fela and grandfather Hershl

As a child growing up in the 1970s and 80s, my younger brother David and I did everything in Manhattan: it was where we lived, went to school and played with our friends.

Except for the weekends when my parents would take us to visit my grandparents in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. Buba Fela and Zayda Hershl lived in the Amalgamated Houses on Sedgwick Avenue – a cooperative apartment complex that functioned like a reassembled shtetl, a Yiddish-speaking community of Jews from Eastern Europe who had somehow escaped or survived the Nazi genocide and lived to tell the tale.

As my brother and I (known at our grandparents’ home as Kylashi and Davittle) sat at our grandparents’ kitchen table, we were fed a steady diet of Holocaust talk. “The war,” they called it, when they spoke English, which they did only for us. Hitler, Stalin, the camps – all these were a part of their normal vocabulary. And their neighbors, some who had been my grandparents’ friends back in Warsaw, most of them Bundists ranging from agnostic to atheist, were the closest thing to an extended family that we had.

Unlike many other survivors who kept silent because they couldn’t bear to revisit the atrocities, everyone in this community told their stories openly; we waited for those stories, just as we waited for Buba’s misshapen cookies and trips to the sprinklers in Van Cortlandt Park. Countless times we heard the story of how they left: when young men were urged to leave Warsaw because of Hitler’s imminent arrival, my Zayda, Herschel, decided he couldn’t leave without his love, Fela. Her grandfather quickly married them, and they fled to Russia, innocently believing it would be safe for them as socialists. But they were arrested at the Russian border, and then jailed separately in Stalin’s prisons in Siberia

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‘Once We Were Slaves’ examines fluidity of race through a Jewish lens

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2022-02-01 03:59Z by Steven

‘Once We Were Slaves’ examines fluidity of race through a Jewish lens

Forward
2022-01-28

TaRessa Stovall

Courtesy of Laura Arnold Leibman

Have you heard the story of the Jewish mother and children who were born enslaved in the Caribbean and became some of the wealthiest Jews in New York?

Professor Laura Arnold Leibman was researching Jewish communities in Barbados when she discovered two small ivory portraits belonging to a Jewish heiress from New York. She traced the family’s ancestors back to Bridgetown, Barbados in the 1700s. But instead of discovering an exclusively Sephardic ancestry, she uncovered a much more complex story of a diverse Jewish family whose identities were impacted by time and place.

Her findings became the book, “Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family.”…

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Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Posted in Articles, Biography, Judaism, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 15:30Z by Steven

Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Forward
2022-01-07

TaRessa Stovall

This undated file photo shows Lani Guinier(C), President Clinton’s nominee to head the U.S. Civil Rights office of the U.S.
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images

Lani Guinier, the daughter of a white Jewish mother and Black Panamanian father whose nomination by President Clinton to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was opposed by mainstream Jewish organizations, died on Friday.

Guinier, who went on to become the first Black woman on the Harvard Law School faculty as well as its first woman of color given a tenured post, succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Boston Globe.

Carrie Johnson, who covers the Justice Department for National Public Radio, tweeted a message from Harvard Law School Dean John Manning confirming Guinier’s death and praising her.

“Her scholarship changed our understanding of democracy – of why and how the voices of the historically underrepresented must be heard and what it takes to have a meaningful right to vote,” Manning’s message said. The dean’s letter to the school community said she died surrounded by friends and family…

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Where Black and Jewish Identity Merge

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2017-03-30 19:36Z by Steven

Where Black and Jewish Identity Merge

Forward
2013-01-27

Adam Langer, Culture Editor


courtesy emily raboteau

Before they had finished their books, before Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts had published “Harlem Is Nowhere” — a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award — and before Emily Raboteau had published “Searching for Zion,” which was published in January, the two women used to take walks together. They would amble past the George Washington Bridge, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Jumel Terrace Books and other landmarks in the Upper Manhattan neighborhoods where both authors currently live.

Both Raboteau and Rhodes-Pitts are young mothers in their 30s whose nonfiction books share a common theme: a yearning for some sort of promised land. For Rhodes-Pitts, whose book is the first in a planned trilogy about black utopias, that place is Harlem; for Raboteau, it is not just one place, but a series of locations where displaced blacks have endeavored to find a homeland.

Raboteau’s journey began in Israel, where her best friend from childhood had moved to make aliyah, but it also led her through such locations as Jamaica, Ethiopia and Ghana, where she came to challenge some of her long-held assumptions about race and religion. The Forward’s Adam Langer invited the authors to have another conversation, this time at Emily Raboteau’s office at City College where she teaches. The writers discussed parenthood, promised lands, and their thoughts on the relationship between blacks and Jews…

Read the entire interview here.

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How Jews Became White Folks — and May Become Nonwhite Under Trump

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2016-12-08 02:43Z by Steven

How Jews Became White Folks — and May Become Nonwhite Under Trump

Forward
2016-12-06

Karen Brodkin, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
University of California, Los Angeles

Decades before I wrote the book “How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America,” I had an eye-opening conversation with my parents. I asked them if they were white. They looked flummoxed and said, “We’re Jewish.”

“But are you white?”

“Well, I guess we’re white; but we’re Jewish.” Then they wanted to know what I thought I was.

I’m white and Jewish…

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For Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, Whiteness Was a Fragile Identity Long Before Trump

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2016-12-07 01:36Z by Steven

For Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, Whiteness Was a Fragile Identity Long Before Trump

Forward
2016-12-06

Sigal Samuel, Opinion Editor


Nikki Casey

I have lived for 26 years under the illusion that I am unconditionally white…. Recently I have started looking at my face and going, ‘Oh man, do I look too Jewish?’” Sydney Brownstone, the reporter who voiced this question in a recent Blabbermouth podcast, is not alone in wondering this. Many Ashkenazi Jews who have always assumed that they’re white are noticing that they’re not white enough for Donald Trump’s white supremacists. Suddenly, they’re asking themselves: Wait, how white am I, exactly?

To tackle this question, try a little visualization. Picture all American Jews arranged along a spectrum. On one end are the Ashkenazi Jews who identify as white and get coded as white by society. On the other end are the Jews of color who can never pass as white: black Jews, Chinese Jews and others who get read as non-white on the street. In the middle of the spectrum are Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, who sometimes pass as white and sometimes don’t.

As a Mizrahi Jew — my ancestors come from India, Iraq and Morocco — I inhabit that ambiguous middle space. For a long time, it’s been a lonely place to be, since Ashkenazi is Judaism’s default setting in America. It’s also been massively confusing, since I often reap the privileges of being white-passing, even as I get selected for “random additional screenings” by the TSA or for “Where are you really from?” queries from strangers on the street…

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NBA Star Amar’e Stoudemire Is Moving to Israel — Because He’s a Hebrew Israelite

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2016-08-07 17:01Z by Steven

NBA Star Amar’e Stoudemire Is Moving to Israel — Because He’s a Hebrew Israelite

Forward
2016-08-01

Sam Kestenbaum, Staff Writer

This week, basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire ended a celebrated 14-year career with the NBA. The six-time All-Star spent most of his career with the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks, before finishing with the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.

Now he’s moving on and up — to Jerusalem. Jews who move to Israel commonly refer to the move as “ascending” to the Holy Land. And like many of them, Stoudemire’s move is at least partly a spiritual journey.

“The Scripture speaks about Jerusalem as a holy place, and I can feel that whenever I’m in the city,” Stoudemire wrote in a farewell note. “My whole journey with reuniting with the Holy Land has always been important,” he added at a press conference.

That “journey” has fascinated, and at times bewildered, some American Jews and Israelis. Stoudemire visited Israel in 2010 to “explore his Hebrew roots” and has visited many times since, even applying for Israeli citizenship. His affinity for Israel prompted a flurry of media attention — was he Jewish? Some mainstream outlets reported then — and some continue to erroneously report — that Stoudemire converted or had a Jewish mother.

But Stoudemire is no Jew, convert or otherwise…

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Black Hebrew Israelites Celebrate Rabbi Who Founded Their Century-Old Movement

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2016-06-25 01:26Z by Steven

Black Hebrew Israelites Celebrate Rabbi Who Founded Their Century-Old Movement

Forward
2016-06-24

Sam Kestenbaum, Staff Writer

This weekend black Israelites will gather across New York City to celebrate their spiritual patriarch — a rabbi from Harlem who helped establish America’s black Hebrew-Israelite movement a century ago.

“We thank the Most High for our beloved Chief Rabbi Matthew,” community member Deborah Reuben wrote online. “Chief Rabbi Matthew will always be remembered [as] a teacher, a scholar of the Torah, a builder and a great leader in Yisrael.”

The three-day event is held every year to honor the Caribbean-born Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew, who founded a synagogue in Harlem in 1919 and taught that black Americans had ancestral ties to the ancient Israelites and that they should return to this Hebraic way of life…

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This desire to own all aspects of a hyphenated identity at once was probably the most pronounced unifying theme for the conference participants, who spanned the gamut of skin tones and religious observance levels.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-05-09 01:41Z by Steven

This desire to own all aspects of a hyphenated identity at once was probably the most pronounced unifying theme for the conference participants, who spanned the gamut of skin tones and religious observance levels. We shared the experience of feeling like outsiders, and many shared an overlapping constellation of marginalized identities like non-whiteness, queerness and far-left politics (although it soon became clear that not everyone had the same political views on Israel and Palestine). Presented by the Jewish Multiracial Network and by Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, the event included African Americans and Latinos and Asians alongside Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews.

Sigal Samuel, “Jews of Color Get Personal and Political at First-Ever National Gathering,” Forward, May 4, 2016. http://forward.com/opinion/340018/jews-of-color-get-personal-and-political-at-first-ever-national-gathering/.

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Jews of Color Get Personal and Political at First-Ever National Gathering

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, United States on 2016-05-09 00:12Z by Steven

Jews of Color Get Personal and Political at First-Ever National Gathering

Forward
2016-05-04

Sigal Samuel, Opinion Editor

If you want to get black Jews, Mizrahi Jews and a Palestinian-American Muslim to burst into tears at the same time, invite Yavilah McCoy to talk about hair.

Speaking at the opening plenary of the Jews of Color National Convening, which took place May 1–3 in Manhattan, McCoy gestured at the woman beside her, a fellow black Jewish leader named April Baskin . “I was there one night when she was just a girl and she was crying with joy on the shoulder of another black woman, because that was the first time she’d worn her hair in a full afro in a Jewish space — the first time she felt like she could show up as her full self.”

Hearing this memory brought to life, Baskin teared up and diverted her gaze from the 100-plus Jews of color who had piled into the synagogue sanctuary at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which hosted the conference.

But McCoy wasn’t done. She turned to the audience and said, “Everyone here needs to hear this: You are beautiful. You are gorgeous. Anyone who told you otherwise was lying in the name of white supremacy.”…

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