Jews of Color is a pan-ethnic term that is used to identify Jews whose family origins are originally in African, Asian or Latin-American countries. Jews of Color may identify as Black, Latino/a, Asian-American or of mixed heritage such as biracial or multi-racial.

Due to several factors, Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews from North African and Arab lands vary in whether or not they self-identify as “Jews of Color.”

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“The Jewish experience is built upon foundations of diversity as old as the Jewish people, a reality that may be lost to many Jews who tend to think of other Jews as being only like themselves. The historical home of the Jews lies at the geographic crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Jews are an amalgam of many peoples and Jewish origins include a multitude of languages, nations, tribes, and skin colors.” ~The History of Jewish Diversity/ Be’chol Lashon

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The first show of its kind, Jews of Color explores the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Jewish community, sharing the unique perspectives of Jews from African-American, Asian, Hispanic and other non-”white” backgrounds. Defying our collective assumptions about what it means to be a Jew, and shedding light on perspectives that are too often ignored by the broader Jewish community, Jews of Color is not to be missed.

Featuring: host Joel Sanchez (Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services), Aliza Hausman (Blogger, “Memoirs of a Jewminicana”), Akira Ohiso (Author, “Survivor”), Yitz Jordan a.k.a. Y-Love (Rapper, Writer, Activist), and Yavilah McCoy (Jewish educator, Diversity Practitioner, and Founder of Ayecha Jewish Diversity Resources).

“The most powerful thing I want to happen in the Jewish community is that we gain more space of love for one another…”~Yavilah McCoy

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At The Kaleidoscope Project, Vanessa Hidary: Kaleidoscope Founder, Producer, Director and Kendell Pinkney: Associate Producer, are driven by their desire to empower fellow Jews of diverse racial, ethnic, and interfaith backgrounds by giving them the space and tools to tell their own stories. KALEIDOSCOPE. Vivid Reflections – Boldly Diverse – Distinctly Jewish.

KALEIDOSCOPE is a narrative-arts driven initiative that was sparked by a desire to highlight the stories of Jews of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, observance levels, and interfaith experiences. Given the increasing diversity of the greater Jewish community, we feel that highlighting the complex, personal stories of diverse Jewish voices through “edu-tainment” is critically important. As we look to expand our initiative (i.e., developing a KALEIDOSCOPE diversity curriculum for Jewish communities, expanding our presence online, broadening our impact within New York and the northeast) we seek to collaborate with partner organizations in order to create a more complete picture of the diversity that already exists within klal yisrael.

Stop being so Ashkenormative!

by Larry Yudelson, The Times of Israel, December 10, 201515-2-F-hebrew-mamita-635x357

Woody Allen had it easy.

A Jewish mother, a slice of herring, a dab of gefilte fish jelly, a shmear of Martin Buber, and a put-down of mayonnaise on white bread for a punch line. Everyone knew what the Jewish menu and the Jewish joke looked like, 50 years ago.

It was never that simple, of course. New York mythology aside, not all Jews left Russia between 1880 and 1923. And not all Jews spoke Yiddish. But ask around in Syrian communities in New York City and you’ll hear stories of grandparents from Damascus and Aleppo whose Jewishness met with stares of disbelief. “How could you be Jewish if you don’t speak Jewish?” that is, Yiddish, they were asked by their Ashkenazic neighbors.

That was then. Now you can dismiss your Litvak zeidie’s ignorant arrogance with a high-falutin’ put-down: Oh, he’s being Ashkenormative again. A lot of consciousness has been raised in the past decade and half on how much the Jewish community constricted itself with unspoken, unquestioned assumptions about Jews looking a certain way, acting a certain way, eating a certain away. In a multicultural age, it began to make sense that there are lots of Jewish cultures.

And at the forefront of that consciousness raising, holding the mic and posting spoken-word videos to YouTube, was Vanessa Hidary, the self-styled Hebrew Mamita, who will perform at Temple Emeth in Teaneck this Shabbat afternoon.

Ms. Hidary grew up in a Jewishly diverse family – her mother from Syrian stock, her father Ashkenazic. Her grandmother had come from Aleppo, where she never would have heard the term “gefilte fish” – which, after all, is simply how you say “stuffed fish” in Yiddish.

She grew up not in the Lower East Side, or in Jewish Brooklyn, but in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, at 88th and Columbus. She’s a bit vague about exactly when, but has described it as during the “hip-hop era.” She went to a local public school and her best friend was a Puerto Rican whose parents owned the corner bodega. Ms. Hidary discovered what it was like to be seen sometimes as Jewish and sometimes as not. She didn’t always like what she heard people say about Jews when they thought she wasn’t one.

She graduated from the LaGuardia High School of the Arts, studied at Hunter College, and earned an M.F.A. in acting.

When it was time to put on a performing persona, to venture to the East Village performance spaces and even the famed Nuyorican Poets Cafe, she dubbed herself the Hebrew Mamita because, she said, “I wanted to represent my neighborhood and how I grew up. I grew up with a very strong Latino culture around me. Mamita is a term of endearment.”

The performance she will bring to Teaneck centers on “modern Jewish identity and race relations, my experience growing up- plus a q-and-a afterward.” Her career has taken her well past New Jersey; she has performed from Alabama to Jerusalem.

“I do sessions that deal with the basics of what does Jewish look like to you. I talk about Jewish living outside the box,” she said.

“When I was growing up, people didn’t know that much about Sephardic Jews, about Jews of different cultures and races. I think the Internet has changed that a lot. They’re starting to have a bigger presence, and the Jewish community is changing. The community is becoming more open to having different faces.”

She can’t quite believe that it has been 15 years since she first worked with Be’chol Lashon, – Hebrew for “in every tongue” – a then-brand-new organization in San Francisco, which imagines “a new global Judaism that transcends differences in geography, ethnicity, class, race, ritual practice, and beliefs.” One of Be’chol Lashon’s premiere activities is an overnight summer camp for racially and ethnically diverse Jewish children.

Locally, Be’chol Lashon’s mission is echoed by Temple Emeth’s Viewpoints committee, which is sponsoring Ms. Hidary. The committee was “formed to celebrate the diversity of the Jewish community and includes programs that highlight the interfaith, interracial, and LGBT communities.”

Ms. Hidary promises that her performance will bring “a lot of humor mixed into poignant things to think about.”

Her latest project has placed her in the director’s chair. It’s a show called Kaleidoscope. She brought together a group of a dozen “ethnically diverse Jews, Jews of color, Sephardic Jews, and had them write their experiences growing up.”

Kaleidoscope’s creation and some performances were underwritten by grants from New York’s UJA-Federation and the 14th Street Y. Now Ms. Hidary is applying for grants to “make that show happen again and attach a curriculum to that.”

Originally posted HERE.

The remarkable story of a black African from a royal lineage in Swaziland who was raised a Christian, converted to Judaism and became a Haredi Litvish Rabbi in Israel. It begins with Rabbi Natan Gamedze’s first visit home in 16 years and traces back his extraordinary spiritual journey from Swaziland to Israel. By following Rabbi Gamedze’s journey to Judaism, this story provides an extraordinary insight into orthodox Jewish thinking from a completely different background. Along the way it gently explores race issues, pre and post apartheid.

Additional information:
http://www.rabbigamedze.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natan_Gamedze

Who Counts? Race and the Jewish Future

Ilana Kaufman, Program Officer, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco
BE INSPIRED
When Jews count themselves, it matters. So who really counts? Ilana Kaufman issues a challenge to the Jewish community on race.


Racism in the Jewish Community: The Uncomfortable Truth via ELItalks

David Baliaba, a prominent member of the Jewish community in Cameroon, performing Hatikvah. David composes music for the prayer services in Cameroon, and is a professional musician and performer.

 

From Canada to the Judean Hills, from Christianity to Judaism

Azriel Dror from Canada converted to Judaism from Christianity and made aliyah because Israel is “where every Jew needs to be.”
Arutz Sheva continues its series of interviews with some of the 221 olim who arrived in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight this week.

One of the new olim on the flight was Azriel Dror, 35, who converted to Judaism from Christianity. Dror, along with his wife and five children, made aliyah from Thornhill, Ontario, Canada (a suburb of Toronto) to Susya, a religious community located in the southern Judean Hills area.

“Israel has always been in my heart and in my mind,” Dror said as the flight made its way to Tel Aviv. “The Torah says that Israel is where we should be. You see prophecy happening all the time, and Hashem has put in my heart and in my wife’s heart to go back to the Land of Israel, where every Jew needs to be.”

Dror recalled how he surprised his son, who attended yeshiva in Israel this past year, by arriving in Israel for a visit. The two toured the country from the south to the north and “I fell in love. My soul just came alive. I said, ‘This is where I need to be. This is where I need to live. Every Jew needs to live there.’”

“I still have to pinch myself that I’m here. Hashem, you made this possible. I thank G-d for his miracles. I thank G-d for catching this flight, and I thank G-d for when I land, that I can kiss the ground,” he said.
Originally posted HERE

A Kaleidoscope Of Jewish Identity By Sharon Anstey

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Ahuva in “Kaleidoscope.” Jonathan Pillot.

Cuban, Moroccan, Turkish, Libyan, Israeli, Puerto Rican, British and American influences swirl through the very Jewish stories presented in Vanessa Hidary’s “Kaleidoscope” at the 14th St Y.

Hidary, the actress, solo performer, poet and director known as the “Hebrew Mamita,” and her cast of 4 men and 8 women explore what it means to be Jewish through multiple, shifting lenses. Their compelling monologues in English with notes of French, Hebrew, English, Spanish, Ladino, Amharic and Turkish, highlight pride and joy as well as discomfort with inequalities and, for many, the bittersweet moments when grandparents and grandchildren cannot communicate easily.

Avi Amon — white, male, Jewish, Turkish, Sephardi, American — articulates the fundamental dilemma: How can we check any one box on a survey form? No one box can capture all that we are. We are forced to “shape shift.”

Raised an Episcopalian in the Bronx, Malaika Martin converted to Judaism and lived in Israel for many years. She thinks she was the only black in Beersheva in the 90s and later reigned as the “Black Queen Bee” of Tel Aviv, dispatching any competitors with contempt — to Jerusalem.

Another performer, who goes by the name Ahuva, grew up in the Ethiopian community in Ashdod and recalls that the Ethiopians walked at night and hid by day during their long journey to Israel. Her pride in Israel and having served in the IDF is evident. At the same time, her fury at the derogatory “Cushi” being hurled at members of her community is palpable.

A common thread among these monologues was “don’t tell me how to be Jewish.” As Corey Hennig who closes the evening said, as a Black and as a Jew, “the nice Jewish boy with a little more flavor,” he feels caught in the crossfire too often.

On a personal note, I witnessed a close friend grapple with this question for a long time. She was a black South African, drawn strongly to Judaism. Rabbis here in New York were willing to convert her but counseled against it as she was planning to return to South Africa — they felt that her Jewishness might be hard for her family there to digest. She lived as a Jew but died a Christian.

“Kaleidoscope” opened on Wednesday evening to an enthusiastic reception and the final performance at the 14th St Y is July 19th.

Originally published HERE.

Olam echad, Hashem echad, ha’am echad” (One world, one God, one people)

“Ani Yehudi”, I am a Jew.
Artwork & products by Yosef’s Dreams/ Zazzle


JEWS AROUND THE WORLD by Ruth Brin

Who Are These Jews?

There were women who sat in the market
selling beets and cabbages so their men could study:
They were Jews.

There were men of Yemen, great swordsmen,
guards of the king: they were Jews.

There are dark women of India, wearing saris,
Black farmers from Ethiopia, Children with slanted eyes:
All Jews.

There are dressmakers and sculptors, thieves
and philanthropists, scholars and nurses,
beggars and generals.

There are women who follow every rule of Kashrut and
men who know none of the rules, yet all of us are Jews.

Though we are not alike in mind or body,
somewhere in the depths of our souls
we know we are the children of one people.

We share history, a hope, and some prayers:
We speak many languages:
We have heard one Voice:

All of us stood together at Sinai
When our past and our future
Exploded in thunder and flame before us.

Faces of Israel

All over the world, Am Yisrael Chai,
All over the world, Am Yisrael Chai,
All over the world, is where we live
and Israel lives in every Jewish heart.
From North and South and East and
West to you we say Shalom, yet
always we know Israel is our home
away from home.

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel – Jet Magazine Mar 31, 1955
Ethiopian jews israel-jet-magazine-mar-31-1955Photo courtesy of Vieilles_annonces of Flickr

For 1500 years, Beta Israel held onto their Jewish traditions in Ethiopia, praying on the Sigd holiday to one day return to Jerusalem.

Tzvat (Safed) is one of the oldest towns in Israel, situated on mountain tops in the Upper Gallile, since the era of the 2nd Temple. It the center for Kabbalah scholars.

The history of the exile of the lost tribe of Menashe dates back over 2500 years. Hundreds of descendants believe they have found their ancient home in Samaria.
“He (Menashe) also will become a people, and he also will be great. However, his younger brother (Ephraim) will be greater than he, and his descendants (B’nei Efrayim) will become a multitude of nations. He blessed them that day, saying, ‘In you will Israel bless, saying, ‘G-d make you as Ephraim and as Menashe.’ He set Ephraim before Menashe” (Bereishit 48:19-20).

 

Israelis Wear Loks

Just near the Carmel Market on the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian walk. Arts & Crafts Fair on Tuesdays and Fridays when the artists themselves are offering their creations. Chantal, Nahalat Binymin Art & Crafts Fair. Tel Aviv

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Hanging Hand painted Glass by Chantal

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“The duty of the survivor is to bear testimony to what happened … You have to warn people that these things can happen, that evil can be unleashed. Race hatred, violence, idolatries — they still flourish.” — Elie Wiesel

The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. Days of Remembrance 2015 Events

The Blessing of the Yellow Candle

We light the yellow candle to rekindle God’s flame,
to shine His light upon the world once again,
to sanctify the memories of millions of souls,
to honor their prayers and all their lost goals,
we bless their existence by being alive,
to light this yellow candle as proof we survived.
~By Ron Adler

“Who Am I To Speak Of A Time?”

Who am I to speak of a time,
of families crushed, of crimes of mankind,
of children in hiding and living in fear,
of mothers trying to hide all their tears,
of fathers praying to an empty heaven,
of people dying again and again?

Who am I to know what it was like
to be persecuted by day and trapped by the night,
to be surrounded by a world turned upside down,
to be starved and tortured and beaten to the ground,
to witness a nation of hate marching past,
to see all their dreams broken and shattered like glass?

Who am I to mention their suffering and pain,
the ghettos, the camps, life and death inhumane?
I wasn’t even born, I wasn’t even there,
it happened long ago, it could never happen here.

Who am I to know what God had in mind
when the virtues of man were buried alive,
when good lost to evil and hope turned to despair,
when hell upon earth seemed everywhere?

Who am I to let their memories be forgotten,
to say and do nothing as if it never happened,
to forsake the loss of our Jewish family,
to live in a world of complacency?
____________________________________

1.5 million innocent children perished in the Holocaust. In an effort to remember them, Holocaust Museum Houston is collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies. The butterflies will eventually comprise a breath-taking exhibition, currently scheduled for Spring 2013, for all to remember. Learn how you can help at http://www.hmh.org/ed_butterfly1.shtml.

Sam Glaser • A Million Butterflies, about the children of the Holocaust

Educator Leon Bass, January 23, 1935 – March 28, 2015. Former Principal of Benjamin Franklin High School, Philadelphia, PA witnessed Buchenwald concentration camp shortly after its liberation. Read Article: Leon Bass, 90, educator forever changed by the Holocaust


American troops, including African American soldiers from the Headquarters and Service Company of the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion, 8th Corps, U.S. 3rd Army, view corpses stacked behind the crematorium during an inspection tour of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Among those pictured is Leon Bass (the soldier third from left). Buchenwald, Germany, April 17, 1945.

At the rising of the sun and at its going down
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring
We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us
as we remember them.

Ani Ma’amin by Lynette, Ben Sidran: Life’s a Lesson

Blacks During the Holocaust

The fate of black people from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and in German-occupied territories ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder.

Two survivors prepare food outside the barracks. On the right is presumably Jean (Johnny) Voste, born in Belgian Congo, was the only black prisoner in Dachau.

There but for the grace of God, go I…
Remember the Afro-German Rhineland Children

Underscoring Hitler’s obsession with racial purity, by 1937, every identified mixed-race child in the Rhineland had been forcibly sterilized, in order to prevent further “race polluting”, as Hitler termed it.

Blacks During the Holocaust

The fate of black people from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and in German-occupied territories ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. However, there was no systematic program for their elimination as there was for Jews and other groups.

If you are like most people, you simply have never heard the unbelievable story of Black victims of the Holocaust. You are invited to read about the human spirit’s triump over events that occurred during this horrible piece of hidden history.

After World War I, the Allies stripped Germany of its African colonies. The German military stationed in Africa (Schutztruppen), as well as missionaries, colonial bureaucrats, and settlers, returned to Germany and took with them their racist attitudes. Separation of whites and blacks was mandated by the Reichstag (German parliament), which enacted a law against mixed marriages in the African colonies.

Following World War I and the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the victorious Allies occupied the Rhineland in western Germany. The use of French colonial troops, some of whom were black, in these occupation forces exacerbated anti-black racism in Germany. Racist propaganda against black soldiers depicted them as rapists of German women and carriers of venereal and other diseases. The children of black soldiers and German women were called “Rhineland Bastards.” The Nazis, at the time a small political movement, viewed them as a threat to the purity of the Germanic race. In Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler charged that “the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardization.”

African German mulatto children were marginalized in German society, isolated socially and economically, and not allowed to attend university. Racial discrimination prohibited them from seeking most jobs, including service in the military. With the Nazi rise to power they became a target of racial and population policy. By 1937, the Gestapo (German secret state police) had secretly rounded up and forcibly sterilized many of them. Some were subjected to medical experiments; others mysteriously “disappeared.”

The racist nature of Adolf Hitler’s regime was disguised briefly during the Olympic Games in Berlin in August 1936, when Hitler allowed 18 African American athletes to compete for the U.S. team. However, permission to compete was granted by the International Olympic Committee and not by the host country.

Adult African Germans were also victims. Both before and after World War I, many Africans came to Germany as students, artisans, entertainers, former soldiers, or low-level colonial officials, such as tax collectors, who had worked for the imperial colonial government. Hilarius (Lari) Gilges, a dancer by profession, was murdered by the SS in 1933, probably because he was black. Gilges’ German wife later received restitution from a postwar German government for his murder by the Nazis.

Some African Americans, caught in German-occupied Europe during World War II, also became victims of the Nazi regime. Many, like female jazz artist Valaida Snow, were imprisoned in Axis internment camps for alien nationals. The artist Josef Nassy, living in Belgium, was arrested as an enemy alien and held for seven months in the Beverloo transit camp in German-occupied Belgium. He was later transferred to Germany, where he spent the rest of the war in the Laufen internment camp and its subcamp, Tittmoning, both in Upper Bavaria.

European and American blacks were also interned in the Nazi concentration camp system. Lionel Romney, a sailor in the U.S. Merchant Marine, was imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Jean Marcel Nicolas, a Haitian national, was incarcerated in the Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau concentration camps in Germany. Jean Voste, an African Belgian, was incarcerated in the Dachau concentration camp. Bayume Mohamed Hussein from Tanganyika (today Tanzania) died in the Sachsenhausen camp, near Berlin.

Black prisoners of war faced illegal incarceration and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis, who did not uphold the regulations imposed by the Geneva Convention (international agreement on the conduct of war and the treatment of wounded and captured soldiers). Lieutenant Darwin Nichols, an African American pilot, was incarcerated in a Gestapo prison in Butzbach. Black soldiers of the American, French, and British armies were worked to death on construction projects or died as a result of mistreatment in concentration or prisoner-of-war camps. Others were never even incarcerated, but were instead immediately killed by the SS or Gestapo.

Some African American members of the U.S. Armed forces were liberators and witnesses to Nazi atrocities. The 761st Tank Battalion (an all-African American tank unit), attached to the 71st Infantry Division, U.S. Third Army, under the command of General George Patton, participated in the liberation of Gunskirchen, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp, in May 1945.


NEVER AGAIN must remain more than a mere slogan

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