Friday, December 24, 2010

Black American Jews:
On the inside looking out, and in


By way of a joke, Robin Washington, Minnesota newspaper editor, African American and observant Jew, explained how mainstream Christian society marginalizes Judaism in American life, filters its holidays through the lens of Christian tradition:

One kid: What ya getting for Christmas?

Another kid: I’m Jewish.

First kid: Oh. What ya getting for
Jewish Christmas, then?

Washington’s joke cuts to the heart of the relative isolation that Hanukkah endures on the national holiday calendar, and by extension the experience of black Jews, a minority inside a minority. As American Jews in general establish their identity in the face of the nation’s predominately Christian identity, Jewish African Americans — who sometimes self-identify as “JOC’s” (for Jews of color) — face another challenge in the United States.

The idea of black Jews in America is more widely accepted than in years past, dovetailing with the nation’s overall increasingly diverse demographic mosaic. But challenges exist in the integration of the black Judaic experience into a skeptical or disbelieving public, and into some aspects of Jewish tradition itself.

Read the rest at theGrio

Image credit: Shyne (Moses Levi) at the Western Wall: Ricki Rosen/The New York Times.

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