erika_orig.jpg

Hi.

Welcome to my blog. I'll be documenting my life as a Pacific Northwest Black, Gay Jewish woman. I hope you'll stick around.

Also, don't be a jerk. No one likes jerks.

In Which I celebrate Hanukkah, talk about Jewish traditions and conversion.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sat, 06 Nov 2010 10:03:54, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish]

I trust you're all having a good Shabbos.  I'm at Mirs now and away from my computer and the rest of my talk.  I will post it late tonight or early tomorrow morning.  Until then, enjoying time with the one I love.

My Talk for Be'Chol Lashon NYC Part 2

Sun, 07 Nov 2010 00:36:23, erika, [category: bechol-lashon, category: black-gay-and-jewish]

Thanks for patiently waiting for Part 2.  One more to go after this!!

Enjoy... 

Black and Gay.

When I was 21 I sat in my mother’s office writing on her computer.  My boyfriend at the time, Barry, an older white man I’d been dating for a year came in.  He sat behind me and I became annoyed as he tried to talk to me while I was writing. (If you're partner is a writer, and you too are a writer, you know not to bother them when they're in the zone.) I finished the sentence I was writing and turned in the swivel chair towards him exasperated.  I was shocked to find him sitting there crying with a quarter carat diamond ring in his hand.  He proposed, I said yes and started to plan a wedding.  A year later it ended and I went into an asexual phase, followed by an overtly sexual phased followed by a need to leave Ohio that I didn’t understand.  I didn’t know what I would do in New York but every inch in my body was screaming for escape.  I moved to New York at 25 and fell into a deep depression.  I felt alone and lost.  At work, the question of who I was started again.  This time the faces of black people around me weren’t just “black”  They were Trinidadian, Jamaican, Guyanan, Dominican...more ethnicities that I still did not fit in.  In my African American literature class I often called myself black to the dismay and anger of some of my black classmates.  They argued we were African American to which I would then ask, "Which country in Africa do you originate?"  I did not and do not feel an affinity to Africa as a homeland because it is not my homeland.  There were two women in the class who were from Ghana, they, I argued, were African Americans, having recently acquired American citizenship. I was black.  Moving to New York rekindled those smoldering ashes.  In New York everyone is from somewhere and being black encompasses a slew of ethnicities.  Even though I do not fit into one of them, being in New York helped me to realize the black woman I was even more than my favorite college course.  

 I spent $300 getting my last relaxer and started to grow out my hair.  My aunt Joanne, from North Carolina and one of the relatives who called me names as a child, complained as I sat in her salon that my hair was too rough, too nappy.  She wanted to just put a little texturizer in it so she could work with it better.  When I came home with my growing out hair my mother offered me $500 cash to relax it.  I was dumbfounded, my entire life I wasn’t black enough for so many of my family members and all of a sudden with my natural hair growing out of my head I wasn’t respectable?  

 I ignored their complaints for the 5 days maximum I ever allow myself to stay in the home state that had suffocated me for years.  New York allowed me to feel comfortable in my skin.  The skin whose color I relished and whose skin was also, I began to admit, was gay.  I sent a mass e-mail to my entire family that I, to this day, have not re-read because of the hatred and ugliness that ensued. Just a note; coming out in a mass-email is a very bad idea.  

Let's just set a few things straight-Black people are not gay.  Period.  Gay is a white disease that has nothing to do with us.  Christians are not gay.  Homosexuality is the work of the devil and an abomination before God.  Catholics are definitely not gay.  Being gay is a mortal sin that no Hail Marys can ever take away.  I knew I was gay when I was 14, my freshman year of high school.  I came out at 28, over a decade later.

 My first job was at an ice cream shop the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. My boss, Jen, was the first girl I had a crush on. When Sr. Mary Nancy, principle of my high school announced over the PA system one morning that the “inappropriate behavior” taking place on the Junior year floor must immediately come to a stop, I'd find myself taking the long way, walking across the junior floor, on my way to the freshman floor to see what the inappropriate behavoir was. There were rumors that a lot of the juniors were lesbians (therefore behaving inappropriately) and I wanted to see.

 When you go to an all-girls high school surrounded by strong, independent, frank, intelligent, and powerful women you're bound to swoon. My friends were my allies and some of my friendships developed into crushes. Crushes that I kept quiet and hid in my cheerleader, boy-crazy persona. When I didn't find lesbians on the junior year floor I thought that I was the only one who really really loved her best friend, instead of just loved them.

The year I took off college my sister brought a girl home for Thanksgiving. She was a bi-racial girl with a face full of freckles and curly hair that made a crown around her face. She was a bit odd-looking but I thought she was cute. My sister called her her "girlfriend" and I knew then that I couldn't be gay, too. Mom and Dad Davis would not approve of both of their only children being lesbians.

The last man I dated was a little bit gay himself. We dated for 2 years and when we broke up I came to the conclusion that I'd tried, really hard, to be straight. I went through countless boyfriends, meaningless heterosexual sex, and one engagement. The wedding dress still hangs in my mother's closet and on it not only hers, but my dreams of what it mean to be an oldest daughter. I was a mess of emotions, depressed, and alone. I tried and it didn't work. I owed it to myself to at least try to do what felt natural to me.

I admitted to one of my best friends over 3 bottles of wine on the Lower East Side that I was gay. I nearly choked when he told me he was, too. An estranged Mormon, he married a woman last year and welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world a few months ago. Two years and going strong, I've found a beautiful, strong, caring, wildly intelligent nice Jewish girl to be my partner.

 Like growing out my hair and cutting off the last straight ends of relaxed hair, cutting away my straight persona was liberating.  It cannot be talked about in this space.  But, the real work that was pretending to be a person I was not was physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.  For 28 years I pretended that hateful words about being a White Black Girl didn’t tear out my soul, I went through the motions of heterosexual “normalcy” and tried to be the perfect daughter to my sister’s drug-addicted disappointment.  I was pushed to the very brink before finding myself and hanging on for dear life.



The Case for Christmas

Sun, 14 Nov 2010 11:27:11, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: jewish-holidays, category: judaism, category: things-to-think-on, category: tikkun-olamrepaire-the-world, category: uncategorized, category: what-kind-of-jew-are-you, category: who-is-a-jew]

Yesterday Mirs and I had an intense and impassioned discussion about Christmas.  I'm not sure how the topic was brought up while we enjoyed brunch after hours of spending money to help improve NYC's economy in SoHo (shopping).  We sat down at a cute brunch location on Elizabeth street and ordered food.  By the time the calamari (I know, not Kosher) was set before us to share we were deep in discussion and I could tell that we were trying with difficulty to both understand the other while trying to defend our point without causing pain.  I caused pain.  I "belittled her entire Jewish experience" which made me feel about as small as the period at the end of this sentence.  In my fervor to express my desires and expectations for the creation of a Jewish home I belittled my Jewish girlfriend's Judaism.

The case was Christmas and how, if at all, it would be celebrated in our home.  5771/2010 is the first year that I will not be celebrating Christmas.  I actually don't even know the date this year and I've offered myself to work on Christmas Eve and the day following.  I've made those offers for a few reasons, one being that as the newest member of my management team I have not acquired any vacation time that would warrant me leaving NYC for Ohio for even a few days.  The other reason is that Christmas isn't mine any more.  I've had 30 years of Christmas in my life.  30 years of family time, presents, memories, laughter and disappointment.  If I'm being honest after high school the Christmas that I'd grown to love had started to fade rapidly. 

As a child, Christmas was the best day of the year.  Santa Davis would always outdo the previous year.  One Christmas morning in particular the entire half of the living room in our Victorian Mansion was filled with presents.  I remember one quite vividly because I got the Julie doll I'd been coveting (she talked and read stories)  my sister got her Teddy Ruxpin talking bear.  There were piles of Barbie Dolls, Legos, a Nintendo, clothes, we both got new bikes, roller skates, ice skates it was overwhelming even to my child's mind.  When our extended family showed up for dinner a few hours later we compared notes about our loot and as my cousins looked at the ridiculous pile of games, toys, and clothes not able to fit under our tree, let alone a corner of a room I felt guilty. 

When our family's finances took a nose-dive it wasn't mentioned to my sister and I, so as to not spoil our childhood.  We moved out of the home my parents were able to repurchase last summer to a much smaller home and our Christmases got smaller.  The way I saw it, a sixth grader didn't need as many toys as I'd gotten previously but when doing the tally at school after break I was the one who was envious of my peer's presents.   I found myself lying to them telling them more presents than I actually received.  By high school we exchanged presents on a very small scale and my sister and I would confide in each other that my parents had gotten cheap, that Christmas was a waste, we barely woke up on Christmas morning any more.

As a 31-year-old having talked to my mother in depth about what happened to our family financially during that time of my life I'm over whelmed with a feeling of selfishness and guilt.  My sister and I were very spoiled children and the silver spoon shoved up our asses were tarnished by an inability to appreciate anything and take everything we'd had for granted.  Still, it does pain me on some level to know that I won't be able to celebrate Christmas on that level again.  Yet, I have friends to this day, that after Christmas want to know what I'd gotten and then run a tally of what they'd received.  They'd get new Kindle, an Ipod, clothing, shoes...can't we buy these as adults?  The meaning of Christmas is lost on so many adults to this day.  I am one of those adults.

I have given up Christmas, as it is no longer my holiday, wholly and without regret.  I will, of course, celebrate with my parents and my nephews will definitely be getting some Christmas presents (okay lots of Christmas presents) from their aunt Erika.  It's unfair to expect my family to make new traditions because of my decision to convert to Judaism.  I will not turn my nose on them and will gladly send them holiday cheer.  It will be neutral, though and I may send them a Hanukkah book with an inscription about who their aunt/daughter is if I can find one that pictures Jews of various ethnicities, rather than just blonde haired ones.  I will do that not to push my conversion onto them, but to better help them understand who I am.  I'm sending my parents a copy of Anita Diament's book "Choosing Judaism" as well as Ernest H. Adam's book "From Ghetto to Ghetto" so that they can understand what I'm doing and where I'm coming from, along with a link to my blog so they can chart my progress and understand better.

Back to yesterday, I said to Mirs, who's always celebrated Christmas because her grandmother on her mother's side is Baptist that we would not do so.  She told me that on Christmas morning her Jewish grandfather gave each of his grandchildren a crisp $100 bill.  I shook my head that it would not be in our home.  As a woman who grew up Christian, Christmas is about the birth of Christ.  To that, she shook her head.  She argued that Christmas was about consumerism and spending time with family.  I told her that we could spend time with family on Christmas, we'd all be off work, afterall, but that there wouldn't be an exchange of presents on any level.  I told her that if we did not celebrate every single holiday on the Jewish calendar with all of the joy, celebration, and history that they remind us of that we definitely would not celebrate Christmas in a Christian way.  I told her that attending temple only for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and leaving the others out just to turn around and exchange presents on Christmas made little our Jewish identity.  That was the knife in the side.  I turned it by saying that I would not be that kind of Jew.

I looked across the table to the woman that I love, the woman I will marry under a chuppah, the woman who I will bear children with, the woman I will live my Jewish life with and I could see that I'd hurt her deeply.  In my new Jew craze haze I forgot that what I want and expect and need from my Jewish religion is not what she needs, wants, or expects from her Jewish identity.  Then she dropped a bomb on me, she's an Atheist.  I smiled with relief and joy-Hallaluhah! 

Do you think I'm crazy that I'm overjoyed that my Jewish girlfriend has admitted that she's an Atheist?  I don't.  When we left the restaurant we were holding hands and the uncomfortable but much needed conversation about the Case for Christmas was cleared.  While she does not believe in God as I do, she very much feels an affinity, love, respect, and personal connection and obligation to her Judaism.  Mirs is a born Jew and I am a Jew by Choice.  Learning all aspects of what it is to become a Jew is not the same as growing up as a Jew, especially a Jew in Texas.  She wants to raise Jewish children, she wants them to attend Hebrew school, she wants to celebrate the entire Jewish year, she wants to attend and celebrate Shabbat every single Friday with our children.  For that, I'll give her dinner with family on Christmas.  No Tree.  No presents.  No Santa.  And we're doing mitzvah on Christmas,  tikkun olam, specifically before hand by volunteering our time to a soup kitchen.  Which is how I will be spending my Christmas this year, as a proud Jew.

The Jewish Wedding Ceremony and other things I learned in Conversion Class

Wed, 10 Nov 2010 22:47:29, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: conversion-classes, category: things-to-think-on]

Today in our conversion class we learned all about the Jewish wedding ceremony and I gotta tell you, even though I know I won't have a "traditional" Jewish wedding (that whole gay thing) I'm super excited to have a Jewish Wedding!  This summer two of our good friends had thee best wedding of 2010.  I'm sorry to everyone else who got married this year but T&A had the best wedding ever.  Not only did we get to spend the wedding weekend in Vermont, surrounded by mountains and Lake Champlain in a house that can only be described as an estate-we got to watch two beautiful women start their lives together as wives.

It was my first gay wedding and I know it will not be my last.  The ceremony was traditional in a lot of ways and unique in many others.  A friend officiated and there was a broom for jumping.  At the end of the day, the wedding was about the two women and the journey of spending their lives together as a unit.  A Jewish wedding is very much like that.  In a Christian wedding there is a lot of talk about God and his blessings over the couple.  It's about the two people and God.  It's not that God isn't invited to a Jewish wedding, he most certainly is.  It's the fact that the core of a Jewish wedding is about the couple becoming a couple.

When a couple is under the chuppah they say a blessing to one another.  Christianity is all about blessings from blessing the body and blood of Christ to blessing food before you eat.  "Bless us O Lord for these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen"  I mean, I've been out of Catholic schools for over a decade and I still know the prayer.  We learned today that in Judaism everything is Holy because it comes from God.  Therefore, when you say a blessing over food, over wine, when you see a beautiful thing you are not making it Holy (it already is)  you're separating it from the Holy (but it's still Holy) and making it yours, and making it acceptable to be yours.  In that sense, the blessing that a Jewish couple says to one another at their wedding, under the canopy, isn't a blessing to make them Holy, it's a blessing separating them from everyone else.

Another tradition that I love is the circling.  Tradition says that a wife circles her husband 7 times and it symbolizes the woman being owned by the husband.  Not so sexy but nowadays grooms circle wives and husbands circle wives and husbands circle husbands and wives circle wives as a symbol of protection, safety, and unity.  It's one of those "things" that happen at a Jewish wedding that make it a Jewish wedding, like Jumping a Broom at a black wedding.  We don't broom jump as a symbol of our marriage any longer because it's no longer illegal for blacks to get married, we jump the broom because it's tradition that is passed from one generation to the next.

So, of course, my entire wedding is planned out in my head.  A fact that probably makes Mirs a little nervous and a fact that makes me giddy with excitement.  I picture as a mix of so many traditions; Jewish, southern, and African-American.  I picture it as a mixing of our family, for sure, but mainly as the proclamation of our lives together.  The core of a Jewish wedding is the couple being married, not anything else.  Which is the way that it's supposed to be.

My Talk for Be'Chol Lashon NY Part 3

Thu, 11 Nov 2010 08:56:43, erika, [category: uncategorized]

 Thanks for your patience while I put this last post up!  I haven't been ignoring you all, but it makes me realize that it's done which is a little sad.  It also makes me realize that the real work of finishing my memoir is at hand.  Enjoy! 

Black, Gay, and Jewish.

I was baptised as an infant and then again around 12, forcibly by my mother.  It wasn’t an option. As I stood in the warm water wearing a gown with Pastor Tisdale at my side he asked me if I took Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.  I didn’t but I looked out of the baptismal pool at my mother who gave me the “look” and my little sister who would have her turn after me.  I was supposed to say yes, even though, I wanted to scream no.  I opened my mouth to protest and before I could speak I was dunked backwards, without warning, into the water.  I gasped and choked on water before being brought up and welcomed into the world as a Christian.  I felt confused, angry, and scared.  I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling in a way that would matter to my parents or Pastor Tisdale so instead I glided on an ocean of confused Christianity for another 4 years.

 About sophomore year of high school, my 7th year in Catholic school I learned about the three monotheistic religions from Ms. Luculio, a squat religious teacher of my high school.  Here I was in a Catholic School, run by Catholic nuns learning that Judaism started it all. I learned that it gave birth to Christianity and Islam.  Ms L, as we called her, told us, “they’re all the same, give or take a few texts and prophets” When I brought this to Bible Study at Friendship Baptist church Pastor Tisdale told me that Jews and Muslims did not worship his god and damned them both to hell.  For me, that was the end of attending church with my mother.   I told her I couldn’t be in a place where the man running it was so hateful and discriminating, not to mention he drove a different Cadillac every Sunday.  For the most part she no longer required me to attend with her, except for the occasional revival or on Easter.

 When I left high school I stopped believing in the monotheistic idea of God all together.  I’d been taught by strong women and surrounded by strong peers who encouraged us to grow into strong women.  We learned to ask questions, to open our mouths, to be heard as well as seen.  I decided that it was all sexist, with the image of female holiness completely obliterated for male ego and learned about Earth-based and Eastern practices.  Like the light bulb that turned on in Ms. L’s class, I was almost shocked to learn that many major Christian holidays were created from Pagan ones.  There’s no mistaking that Christmas celebrations and the pagan Yule Holiday are strikingly similar.  One cannot deny that Easter with its eggs doesn’t sound a lot like pagan Fertility Holidays.  I made friends with Wiccan girls and together we celebrated the beauty of a full moon or new moon in outdoor and I felt God there.  I loved the duality of male and female but mostly, I loved the earth;  feeling the wind on my skin or the hum of an old tree as I sat and meditated under had me yearning for something more. While the friendship of the Wiccan girls was comforting, the spirituality was lacking. I needed something else but didn't know what it was so I became a lazy atheist.

 I just didn’t “do” religion again until I moved to New York.  This is where my story gets intertwined.  We only have an hour, and I’m writing a book so when you read it, you’ll get the whole thing.  Let me just say this.  As a black woman, as a “straight” woman, as a lazy atheist I was very miserable.  I didn’t fit into those molds.  To my family, and throughout my childhood I was told that I wasn’t black enough.  I got engaged and started planning a marriage when I knew I wasn’t happy because I’d picked the wrong guy, I wasn’t happy because he was a guy.  And while I tried to believe that I was god-less, I felt a longing for God.  Moving to New York, alone, allowed me to spend a lot of time with me and discover that I am a Black Woman, I am a Gay Woman, and I need God.

 I knew I didn’t want to go back to a Baptist church because it always seemed too theatrical, too chaotic, and too contrived.  It couldn’t be denied that the music was much better than any I’d heard, but I couldn’t sit in a place where Christ was my key to salvation when I wasn’t sure it was true.  The same was true of Catholicism.  If I decided to be a Catholic, there was no un-doing it.  The idea of the host at communion becoming Jesus’ body and blood never made sense at all, and the resurrection?  I still call Easter “Zombie Jesus” day and sing Kanye  West, “Je-sus Walks”  Still, I loved knowing exactly how long Mass would take and what would happen next.  The ritual, the familiarity, the expectation, and beauty was comforting to me.  So I entered an Episcopal Church, Catholic-lite, and attended for a year. I found myself attending regularly because one of the pastors was a woman. She wore the black and white collar I was so familiar with on the priests in Catholic church. She had short hair, a friendly smile, and while I didn't enjoy the church aspect of church, I enjoyed her.

 After taking communion, just symbols not flesh and blood, there is a time to go back to your pew to pray and reflect.  Whenever I would pray I would cry and in those few moments while the whole of Saint John the Divine or St. Barts would take communion, I felt close to God.  Everything else, the other 45 minutes of service I was just going through the motions.  It didn’t feel right.  So when I missed a week I didn’t miss it.  I missed two weeks and didn’t miss it and then I missed several months at a time and it was like it didn’t happen.  I still missed God, though. I even dragged my Jewish girlfriend to St. Barts with me. I was flailing.

 The idea of being a Black Jew wasn't the hardest pill to swallow. The way I figured, every single town, village, and body of water in the Bible is on the continent of Africa. Therefore, Jews were originally brown-skinned people. I was well aware that the American view of Judaism was not as such and as I made my first few tentative steps into The Village Temple for Summer Shabbat services I only saw a few faces that were not white. I knew that there were Jews of Color to be found and that when I found them they would help to affirm that my place was within Judaism. Oddly, the color barrier wasn't an issue for me. I knew that it could be for others but that would be their problem, not mine.

 When I started to read about Judaism and aspects important to Judaism; specifically raising a Jewish child and having a Jewish family I wondered how being a lesbian would be accepted. When I started looking online for synagogues in NYC that I would add to my shul shopping list I looked for synagogues that had women rabbis, rabbis of color, or Queer Rabbis. Could there be gay Jews?

{Video Trembling Before G-d}

On a subway ride late last spring, I mentioned that I was considering Judaism. My girlfriend, Miriam, a born Jew who's become a bit lazy about her Judaism looked at me in what can only be described as shock. She wanted to know why I wanted to be a Jew. I didn't have the answer then but I knew that it was what I wanted to do. It was the only thing that I hadn't considered and everything else I did consider hadn't fulfilled me.

For her Judaism is about culture, tradition, food but for me Judaism is more than just culture or tradition or food, it's a religion. I picked up my first book on Judaism from Barnes and Noble, “Being Jewish” by Ari L. Goldman.  When I finished that I read another, then another, then another, until where I am right now, still reading.  I went online to try to figure out how me, a gay black woman, could also be a Jew.  I talked about with friend’s who’d ask in horror and shock, “you’re black, you're a woman, and you’re gay-why would you want to be a Jew?”

Why did I want to be a Jew?  Why am I trying to be a Jew right now?  I identify as a Jew, even though I’m not yet one because it is where my soul belongs.  It is where I feel alive.  Growing out my hair, coming out, reading Jewish books all have the same feeling.  It is that feeling you get when coming down from that first big hill on a roller coaster.  You feel your stomach flip, the rush of wind pushing back your hair, the skin on your face, and drying out your eyes.  You’re falling and you cannot see the bottom but you know you’re on tracks.  You think you might die but remember that you’re strapped into a car, the car is being held by tracks, and the tracks are being held on metal that has been forged together in strength.  You’re falling but it feels amazing and when you make it to the bottom of the first hill you can actual smile again and a rush of adrenaline kicks in and you feel-alive.  

That’s  this road to Judaism fees like for me-life.  One of the first things I did when I started to try to figure out how a black ex-Christian gay woman could become a black gay Jew was to seek out other Jews of Color and find other LGBTQ Jews, and to try to find a synagogue that would accept me wholly as a Black, Gay Jew. So far, the rabbis that I've talked to and the rabbi who's in charge of my conversion has been nothing but supportive. For me, it's not necessarily about what Judaism says about who I am as a gay person, but what I bring to Judaism as a gay person and as a black person.

I am changing the face of Judaism by living my very existence. Judaism is better because of it. Ultimately, though, it's not what others think of me, it's not for people to judge me, it's not up to anyone to tell me who I can and cannot be. My last quote from Black, White, and Jewish by Rebecca Walker is this.

Walker Quote.

She exists and so do I. I'm A Black, Gay, Jew.

I am Noah Aronson's #1 Fan

Sat, 13 Nov 2010 19:53:38, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: jewish-food, category: jewish-holidays]


Hi Noah. :)

I suppose it's only right to explain the title for this blog.  If you've not heard of Noah Aronson then you must be living under a rock, you're not Jewish, or you really like your traditional Jewish music.  Noah is a composer of both Jewish and secular music and is currently in Canada, if I'm not mistaken, bringing the wonderfully thoughtful, soulful, and impassioned melodies of his music to a community this evening.  Monthly Noah plays right here in Brooklyn, NY for Congregation Beth Elohim for the best, hands down, Shabbat service ever.

When Noah plays CBE the small chapel is filled to the max and the entire congregation stands up, claps, sings, and some even boogie down to his mix of melodies that have distinct sounds from the far east intertwined with beats and tempos that this 31-year-old black Jew can really groove to.  It's almost impossible to listen to his music without tapping your fingers to the beat.  When tapping becomes too little an expression of joy, you add your feet, and when that's not enough you clap, and sway feeling overwhelmed with the happiness that is supposed to accompany Shabbat.  It's a shame that he only plays once a month because he makes the Shabbat experience unlike any I've experienced and one that I long for every Friday night.  His version of Shalom Aleichem has been in my head since last night's service.

I do not discredit the haunting beauty of a cantor singing ancient Ashkenazi melodies that have been sung for the generations but the wonderful sounds of Noah's Sephardic roots paired with his addicting guitar cords are truly inspirational and moving.  If you haven't done so yet, check out his music!

So after Shabbat service Mirs and I had plans to eat Shabbat dinner at the home of our good friends Rachel and Tom.  I was thrilled because it was my first ever Shabbat dinner.  I dream of the day that Mirs and I actually have a dining room table that's large enough for us to host a Shabbat dinner of our own.  When I picture it in my head I'm filled with excitement, anticipation, and sheer terror of what Shabbat is "supposed" to look like.  I remember reading a post on another blog of a Jew of Color and a guest at her Shabbat dinner had the gal to tell her that what she served was not appropriate for Shabbat. 

What is appropriate for Shabbat other than the bread, the wine, and the candles.  In my opinion, nothing.  Shabbat is what you make of it and it's the reason that we, the Jewish people, have survived for so long.  It's my favorite part of the week and I actually scolded myself for rushing out of the city late and not being home to light the candles with Mirs in time.  Rachel and Tom made a Shabbat dinner that was out of this world and probably something that I would've done myself-minus the dozen people present.  Don't get me wrong, I can only hope to have an apartment large enough to feed many people but for the time being, my Shabbat dinner will be small.

I didn't take a tally but when everyone arrived to their Park Slope apartment (including Noah, minus his guitar) there had to be at least 15 people present.  The neurotic planner in me wondered how she'd find enough seating for everyone.  I noticed place settings around the home but thankfully everyone sat on the couch, pulled up chairs and just enjoyed the company.  The way that it turned out allowed for everyone in the room to mingle and chat and feast on a meal of Matzo Ball soup, Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan, Baked Chicken with Potatoes, Roasted Squash with Cranberries, White Fish with Olives, Sautéed Kale, Challah, and an assortment of dessert and wine.  

After the soup course I looked at Mirs and smiled broadly, I felt Jewish.  I was in a room of Jews doing what millions of other Jews were doing all over New York, the United States, and the world.   I looked into her eyes and pictured what our Shabbat dinners will look like this year, next year, five years from now, twenty years from now.  I felt Jewish and for the first time when I told people that I was in the process of converting they were genuinely excited.  I chatted with rabbi's sons and rabbi's daughters about why this black gay girl was making the choice to become a Jew.  I felt really accepted by these people who understood what I was saying to them.  My last Noah shout out is about blessings.  I told him my revelation about the reasons Jews bless things last night over soup and he nodded his head not in agreement, but understanding.  I said something that was, to him, what he knew as a born Jew.  Something I learned as a new Jew, but something we both understood.

The Jewish Funeral and other things I learned in Conversion Class tonight

Wed, 17 Nov 2010 23:38:53, erika, [category: bechol-lashon, category: conversion-classes, category: judaism, category: things-to-think-on]

If you haven't gathered, the first trimester of my conversion class was all about the Jewish Life Cycles.  We learned about birth, baby naming, brit, bar/bat mitzvah ( I missed that day but just so you know you become a bar/bat mitzvah, you don't have one), wedding, and today-Death.  Dum-dum.  Not only is it the end of the life cycle it marks the end (almost) of my first trimester of class.

I was quite centered and awe-inspired in the way that Jews deal with death.  I've read about Death and Mourning in various books that I own on Judaism.  Many of the books centering around conversion talk about Death and Mourning in great length for simple logistical reasons.  What to do if your Christian parent dies, I'm a Jew, my parents are not will they sit shiva for me-things of that sort.  Today we really got down to the actual rituals surrounding dying and mourning and like so many things I'm learning the Dying and Mourning process is less about God and more about the family.

I've always known what my dying wishes will be.  My parents know, my sister knows, and Mirs knows.  When I die I want to be cremated, I don't want a funeral, and I don't want crying.  Instead, I want a party in my honor and I want those in attendance to enjoy my life, to remember me, not to mourn me.  Today I realized that I may have to change my wishes.  The reason I opted for cremation rather than a funeral was because the cost of a funeral is ridiculous.  The idea of spending thousands of dollars for an ornate box that goes into the ground is like throwing wads of money down the toilet.  Cremation seemed the most cost effective way to lift the financial burden of my death.  The reason I didn't want a funeral is because I've never been to a funeral I enjoyed.  The process of a showing, the funeral service, and the burial is time-consuming and drags on for days.   As I wrote in one of my short stories, The Front Porch, I never saw a good-looking corpse.  Lastly, I wanted a party so that I could be remembered in a positive way, a way that brought tears of joy rather than tears of sadness.

Apparently, Judaism fits the bill.  According to Jewish law when a person dies the body must never be left alone.  The body is washed by people whose specific mitzvah is to wash the bodies of the dead.  The body is then dressed in a kitl, burial shroud, and perhaps a tallit.  They are placed in a pine box and returned to the earth, ideally a day after they have passed away.  Autopsies are not to be performed and the body is not to be embalmed.  Kaddish is prayed and the soul leaves the body.  The entire family and those present at the gravesite are to do the physical work of shoveling the dirt onto the pine box, burying it completely and then the focus shifts from the deceased to the mourning family who sits shiva for 7 days.  For those 7 days they are not to bathe or shave, they are to be served by guests and mirrors are to be covered.  On the last day, they are to rise and go into a period of mourning for 30 days.  For 11 months Kaddish is prayed and every year on the anniversary of the death a Yahrzeit candle is lit.

Sound gloomier than what I want, right?  But it reminded me of something my sister once told me about my funeral idea.  The purpose isn't for me, really.  I am gone, after all.  The funeral is about the people left behind.  Judaism feels the same way.  When a person dies utmost care and honor is bestowed upon them.  The greatest mitzvah any person can do is to attend the dead.  The quick burial allows focus to go onto the family.  We sit shiva for 7 days to give us time to mourn the loss.  We end the period of mourning after 30 days to remember that we are alive.

The fact is that we all die.  Whether we are rich or poor doesn't matter to our soul.  Being buried in a pine box that will have turned into dust with our remains becoming dust as well reminds us that we're all the same.  Being buried in the kitl we wear on Yom Kippur reminds us that before God we're all the same.  Giving to the family, attending their needs allows us to not only remember the spirit of the person but to be thankful and blessed to be alive.

The Kaddish is as follows:

May the great Name of God be exalted and sanctified, throughout the world, which he has created according to his will. May his Kingship be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire household of Israel, swiftly and in the near future; and say, Amen.
May his great name be blessed, forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored elevated and lauded be the Name of the holy one, Blessed is he- above and beyond any blessings and hymns, Praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say Amen. May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen


It never mentions death because we must always recognize the greatness, glory, and awesomeness of God.  Like life, death is out of our hands.  The only thing in control, Judaism teaches us, is to live a good life.

Challah and Matzo Balls

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 14:20:54, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: black-jews, category: jewish-food, category: judaism, category: kosher]

Two things that are synonymous with Jews and Kosher-style Delis.  Every Friday night we make our way to Avenue J(ew) to buy our Shabbat supplies; Challah and wine.  This week we added one Kosher Chicken, a bunch of herbs, and a menorah and Hanukkah candles.  The Chicken and herbs are for the Matzo Ball Soup recipe that I'm making right now.  A combination of recipes from Jewish friends, NYC's famed 2nd Avenue Deli, and of course my girlfriend's grandmother.

Another "new" Black Orthodox Jew to add to the Fold and What I got from Amazon Today

Mon, 22 Nov 2010 15:40:49, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: black-jews, category: jews-of-color, category: judaism, category: what-im-reading, category: whats-in-a-hebrew-name, category: who-is-a-jew, category: y-love]

 

According to the BBC News the rapper Shyne, from P-Diddy nightclub shooting fame has emerged from his 10 year jail sentence as a Chasidic Jew.  Born of an Ethiopian Jewish mother in Belize, Shyne, or Moshe ben David-his Hebrew name, decided to put down the guns and pick up the Torah while in prison.  I'll be honest, I have no idea who he is but apparently he's a good rapper and hasn't let his tzi-tzit or tallit prevent his pen from scribbling across pages.  I wonder if he'll do a collaboration with  Y Love?  I have to say that I'm a bit jealous of Moshe, having an Ethiopian mother automatically makes him a Jew.  I'm presuming he didn't study much Judaism before his time in jail but the 10 years of study allowed him to be a more dedicated and more learned Jew.  I'm also a bit jealous that he can pray at the Western Wall...those laments I will save for another day.  Mazel tov to Moshe, I hope to see you in shul, although I won't because I'm not Chasidic.


In other news, I've been waiting by the window patiently all day for the UPS truck to deliver my goods.  I received Entering Jewish Prayer-A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service by Reuven Hammer, Minding the Temple of the Soul by Tamar Frankiel and Judy Greenfeld, To Pray as a Jew-A guide to Prayer Book and Synagogue Service by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin as well as Pimsleur's Basic Modern Hebrew Language set (bring on the CD Walkman!) Learn Hebrew Today-Alef-Bet for Adults by Paul Michal Yedwab with Howard I. Bogot as well as a Biblical Hebrew laminated card.  I'm still waiting for I Thank Therefore I am as well as a video I purchased on converted Jews from Ruth Diskin Films called Leap of Faith.

How and Why do you Jew?

Sun, 05 Dec 2010 11:31:14, erika, [category: am-i-a-jew, category: black-gay-and-jewish, post_tag: how-i-chose-judaism, category: jewish-prayer, category: judaism, category: things-to-think-on, category: what-im-reading, category: what-kind-of-jew-are-you, post_tag: why-i-chose-judaism, post_tag: why-i-wanted-to-be-a-jew]

I've started to write this post at least a dozen times.  I've recently received 3 books on Jewish prayer from Amazon, To Pray as a Jew by Hayim Halevy Donin, Entering Jewish Prayer by Reuven Hammer, and Minding the Temple of the Soul by Tamar Frankiel and Judy Greenfeld.  I've purchased them to better understand the things that happen at service; when to bow, why we bow, how to bow...should I bow or does that feel strange?  I purchased language  aids to help with learning Hebrew so that I can read or at least try to read the language of Jewish pray.  Am I a Jew if I pray in English?  Am I connected to the Jewish people if I don't pray in Hebrew?  I've also purchased them because I want to know the different ways to enter Jewish prayer...meditation, concentration, proper mindset.  I'm reading the first two in tandem and they're both written from an Orthodox perspective-I've skipped entire chapters.  Mainly I wonder why do I want to pray and what difference does it matter if I pray the "right" way.

Friday night Mirs and I had our Hanukkah Party we had 13 people in our small apartment to bring in Hanukkah with food, drinks, music, drinks, food, drinks, drinks, drinks.  One of our friends asked me why Judaism and I've been thinking about that question since she asked.  We were both pretty...wasted so the conversation jumped around but it's a valid question whose answer changes the more that I learn.

Being without religion doesn't work for me.  I tried and I failed and felt empty inside, which sounds incredibly dramatic.  With personal issues looming, family issues bogging me down I needed something.  In a drunken stupor with Mirs falling asleep fast next to me I came up with my analogy of the religions that I tested before coming to Judaism.  They're all like being in a room.  As a Christian, specifically a Catholic, the room may be large but eventually you get to a wall so you walk in the opposite direction and eventually get to another wall before you realize that you're boxed in and that you can't get around or through the walls because there are no doors or windows.  With Christianity there are facts that you cannot dispute, doing so makes you a non-believer.  The need to be saved, the need to believe that Jesus is not only man but divine, the son of God.  The Bible is the living word of God and cannot be changed, altered, or argued without damnation of your soul.  For me, personally, Islam is like that too but with a stronger God connection.

Living in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood a block from a mosque I'm surrounded by believers.  Seeing them, very obviously Muslim, devout in dress and manner on the block holding prayer beads is intriguing  The dedication that these Muslims have to their faith, their prayer specifically, is inspirational.  Still, to me, Islam is like being in a boxed room with no doors.  In order to be a Christian one needs to declare Jesus as their saviour and then you're a Christian.  In order to become a Muslim you must declare that there is only one God and his prophet is Mohammed.

Buddhism, while there are definitely beliefs was like being in a room and realizing that there were no walls.  When you thought you'd approached one you realized it was just an illusion and you could essentially keep going in every direction without coming to an end.  It sounds amazing but for me the lack of boundaries was daunting and overwhelming, still the connectedness to divinity in meditation and practice was inspirational.

When I found Judaism it was the best of everything I was looking for.  The idea of one God is comfortable for me but Judaism doesn't require that you always agree with him, and in fact, encourages the argument in terms of discovering truths.  The Bible, depending on which sect of Judaism you believe, can be challenged and when you're in the large room and you hit a wall you discover that there's a door that you have a key to that you can walk through.  You find yourself in another room and you can walk until you hit a wall that has another door that you have a key to that you can walk through.  It can continue that way for the rest of my life as a Jew.  As a Jew, you're allowed and encouraged to "wrestle with the Torah"  we're encouraged to ask questions.  We're encouraged to not believe based on faith alone, but based on knowledge.  Judaism allows you to think with a rational mind while asking you to think like a Jew, live like a Jew, and work towards making the world a better place not only for Jews but for human kind.  Christians do that too, as do Muslims and any faith but for me, Judaism works best.

My Netflix has been clogged with Documentaries, docudrama, and National Geographic, PBS, Discovery Channel looks into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  It's almost insane how similar the three religions are and by far, Judaism and Islam are the two that make me most excited, most intrigued, most fascinated.  It's because at their core, their very roots, you will find God and no one else.  Just God.  With Judaism, like Islam, there is no messenger, there isn't an intermediary, there is only God.  You pray to him and him alone.  No angels to carry your prayer, no saints to put in a good name.  Just you and God.  I'm also reading Finding God by Rifat Sonsino and Daniel B. Syme.  I'm still very early in the book and it's captivating .  It's made me realize a relationship with God that I've never learned before.  As a Christian, you often end prayers with, "In Jesus' name we pray" but Jewish prayers start, Baruch atah, Adonai.  Blessed are you, Adonai, Our God.

"A man enters a synagogue, and stands behind a pillar, and prays in a whisper, and God hears his prayer, and so it is with all His creatures.  Can there be a nearer God than this?  He is as near to His creatures as the ear to the mouth"

JT Brachot 9:1. 13a


Jews, like Muslims, are instructed to pray in the tongue of God.  For Jews, that tongue is Hebrew.  It is the language of the Torah, and arguable, the language that God spoke to the prophets.  Do I really believe all of that?  I shrug as I write this.  The beauty of Judaism is that I'm "allowed" to shrug whereas Christianity commands you to have faith.  I do feel close to God in many ways.  I feel God's presence in the laughter and smiles of my nephews.  I see God in the beauty of the world and oddly I see God in the ugly.  I see God in the homeless people on the streets of New York and I am lost and confused when I try to ignore them.  One of my favorite Christian Bible gospels, The gospel of Thomas isn't in the Catholic canon or the King James version of the Christian Bible.  It reminds us that God is in everything, we just have to seek him out.

So how do I do that?

Turkey Day!

Thu, 25 Nov 2010 09:52:47, erika, [category: uncategorized]

Today is Thanksgiving.  There's nothing particularly Jewish about it.  It's definitely one of only a few secular Holidays on the Calendar that most people, in the United States celebrate.  Whether you're a Jew, Christian, or Muslim if you're American or a displaced American in another land you are going to belly up to a large table spread today to gorge yourself on turkey, tofurky, sides and pies.

Enjoy your time with family and friends!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Resources for LGBTQ Jews

Tue, 23 Nov 2010 20:30:17, erika, [category: bechol-lashon, category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: black-jews, category: gay-jews, category: jews-of-color, category: judaism, category: things-to-think-on, category: tikkun-olamrepaire-the-world]


It's almost been a month since I gave my talk at Be'chol Lashon.  We're scheduled to meet next week, the first day of Hanukkah, a day that I'm booked three ways in the evening.  It's my last day of my conversion class for this trimester.  It's my "office" party, and it's the Be'Chol Lashon Hanukkah party/meeting.  I have decided to attend my last conversion class-as Be'chol Lashon is for Jews and I'm still a Jew-in-Training.  They'll always be there but for some of the students of the conversion class, they're off to get converted! 

I found Be'Chol Lashon, a resource not only for Jews of Color but a group advocating for diversity in the Jewish community as a whole to try to find other Jews of Color.  I also found the Jewish Multiracial Network and a forum for Jews of Color on the Jews by Choice website.  It was important for me to find other Jews of Color as well as Jews by Choice to get to "know" if only via internet.  I reached out to a black lesbian Jew named Sandra who suggested a few LGBTQ Jewish sites as well.  So now I have them set to memory and saved on my favorites tab and I'm wondering what I can do.  My conversion class rabbi is always reminding us that Judaism is a religion of doing rather a religion of talking.  That phrase actions speak louder than words comes to mind.  I'm learning but I'm wondering what I can do more.

On my other and neglected blog a new reader commented on my homage to the It Gets Better Project.  The reader expressed thanks that I highlighted some of my favorite videos but wondered what we, society, were doing about it.  It made me a bit defensive at first and then I realized that as a Jew I have an obligation to repair the world, Tikkun Olam, in any way that I can.  I read and I'm learning, I'm even doing extra credit!  I have a feeling that when I get paired up with a rabbi at the synagogue, the rabbi I will talk to on a weekly basis (I want weekly not monthly!) will give me suggestions of books to read and I'll have read them already.  I'm doing all of this learning and my desire to learn, understand, and know more is almost all-consuming but I'm not really doing anything Jewish.

[caption id="attachment_228" align="aligncenter" width="250" caption="that kippah is on my hanukkah list"][/caption]

I attend synagogue on Friday, I light candles, I kiss my hands to my mezuzah and I wear 2 Hamsas around my neck.  I'm planning my Hanukkah party food, I almost bought another menorah today and I make a mean matzo ball soup.  I feel Jewish but I'm not doing Jewish things.  We're several months into 5771 and while my learning seems to be expanding with every book I read and every website I visit I wonder what I can do to help the community as a whole.  And when I think of how I can help the Jewish community I'm drawn, naturally, to the niche communities.  I'm drawn to the Jews of Color, I'm drawn to LGBTQ Jews because it is in those communities that I "fit".  I wrote a blog once about an article in Reform Judaism magazine where two gay Jews were weighing the pros and cons of LGBTQ Jews being included, outright, in the shul.  One argued that inclusion should be natural and wedding announcements for two Jewish congregation members who are gay should go right next to straight announcements.  He argued that it should be a part of the congregation as a whole.  The other debated that there needed to be clear and separate LGBTQ spaces, there should be a LGBTQ Hanukkah party, for instance.  I'm paraphrasing the article completely but I can see both sides.

As a Jew by Choice, a Jew of Color, a Lesbian Jew I can understand the need to be recognized for who you are and also the need to just be seen as a Jew, minus the other labels.  I don't have that privilege, if you will.  Unless I seek out a black shul I'll always be the black girl in shul.  I have the option, though, to seek out the LGBTQ shul in NYC and fully intend to in the next few months.  I'm still shul shopping, quite honestly.  In terms of serving my Jewish community I want to be of assistance to people who I feel most connected to.  On the other hand, I can't think of the Jewish community in small compartmentalized boxes, even though some prefer to do so.

There are two great LGBTQ Jewish online resources I've been scoping out lately.  Keshet and Nehirim.  I'm excited to learn more about them and hope to be apart of the work that they do.

3 Days Until Hanukkah

Mon, 29 Nov 2010 00:11:12, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: hanukkah, category: jewish-food, category: jewish-holidays, category: jews-of-color, category: judaism
I'm planning a Hanukkah party with Mirs for the 3rd night of Hanukkah.  I've not quite settled on my menu, although I know that it will have very strong Middle Eastern influences.  My two Jewish cookbooks are Sephardic and I've always been a fan of Middle Eastern flavors, so it seems appropriate.  The third night of Hanukkah is also Shabbat so there will be a lot of candles, wine, and of course challah.   We each have individual menorahs and have asked our friends to bring their own as well.  I'm excited to see her apartment lit by soft flickering lights of the Shabbat candles, the menorah, and the dozen tea lights I plan on buying.

I'm tempted to purchase a lot of Hanukkah decorations but when I start to think about silver and blue garland hung in Mirs apartment I feel sort of like I'm trying my best to not decorate it like Christmas while decorating it like "Christmas."   I'm just not sure that I want to treat Hanukkah in the same way that I've treated the 30 Christmases I've celebrated.  Christmas only happens for one day but for the days leading up, the house is ready for its debut.  People are stringing lights, the Christmas trees are lit and plastic figures will start to grace the lawns and porches of neighborhoods around the world.

I remember watching old Christmas movies or reading old books where folks put the Christmas tree up the day before Christmas.  Now, in my mother's house at least, the Christmas tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving.  Every year she tries to put it up before hand and when we were living at home, we wouldn't let her.  Now, that my sister and I are gone she's left to her own devices  not one, or two, but three Christmas trees are up (and have been for weeks) and decorated in her house. 

I will admit that I'm missing Christmas carols.  I've actually decided that Christmas Carols that don't mention Christ, Savoirs, Children, or Angels are perfectly acceptable songs.  I'm also a big fan of lights and I suppose that lights are way more Hanukkah-themed than Christmas-themed.  It's a slippery slope, though.  It could start with lights and garland to make my apartment feel more "festive" and before you know it ornaments will start showing up.  Where do you draw the line?  The Christmas tree is actually pretty pagan rather than Christian and ornaments don't have much to do with Christ's birth...yet they all feel like Christmas, not Hanukkah.

When I start to think of it like that the question begs to be asked-Beside the menorah, what statement piece does Hanukkah have?  More importantly, does it matter?  The mitzvah of Hanukkah is the lighting of candles and the proclamation of the lit candles.  According to most sources I've read the menorah's light is supposed to be visible for the world to see.  It's not supposed to stay on your table in the living room but in the window.  I always scoffed at the idea of an electric menorah but now I feel like I want to buy one for the purpose of putting it in the window.


While Hanukkah is not a major holiday, the idea of 8 days of "presents" is obviously appealing.  For the past 2 years Mirs and I have exchanged presents for the 8 days of Hanukkah after lighting the candles and reciting the blessings.  This will be the first year that I'll be doing it as a Jew-to-be.  It's also the first year that we'll be celebrating with friends.  I'm going to celebrate it in a major way, with drinks, friends, candlelight and music.


Is a Hanukkah List too much like a Christmas List?

Mon, 29 Nov 2010 12:32:37, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: black-jews, category: hanukkah, category: jewish-holidays]

There are 2 nights until we light our first Hanukkah candles.  I'm testing-driving my Hanukkah party music, 1/3 Hanukkah songs by the LeeVees, Barenaked Ladies, and some amazing Hanukkah swing music if you can believe it.   1/3 Christmas Carols that don't mention Christ, Jesus, Babies, Angels, or Miracles.  1/3 really great jams by Lauren Hill, Jill Scott, Siji, and more.  I'm still toying with the idea of Hanukkah decorations and I need to find a dreidel or two but in all of my Hanukkah party craze I realized that I forgot to write a list of presents I want for Hanukkah.

I don't really need anything and Mirs has really great gift-giving sense but it got me thinking, do little Jewish children give their parents Hanukkah lists?  As a child growing up Christian you write a letter to Santa and that's how he knows what to get you for Christmas.  Of course parents intercept this letter from the child with the promise of putting it in the mailbox to the North Pole, a tradition I'm having mixed feelings about.  The child also gives their parents a list of things they'd like for them to bring.  On Christmas day, at least in our home, the presents from Santa were not wrapped because he didn't wrap presents (duh) and the presents from our parents were wrapped.

There isn't a magical elf associated with Hanukkah so do Jewish children just tell their parents what their Hanukkah wishes are or do they make a list addressed, "Dear Mom and Dad"

Tomorrow's the First Night of Hanukkah!

Tue, 30 Nov 2010 15:34:10, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: black-jews, category: hanukkah, category: jewish-food, category: jewish-holidays]

At sundown tomorrow night Jews around the world will be lighting their first Hanukkah Candles.  I'll be lighting mine with my conversion class before speeding off to a work Holiday Party but in the spirit of those 8 Crazy Nights, some Hanukkah Videos and songs.

I can't get this one to load on my page but go to the link for the LeeVees to check out a really funny Channukkahh song. 

I really get annoyed by this one but you've got to give it to Adam.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrd9p47MPHg]

So when you google Hanukkah songs you get a whole slew of finds...I love the different ethnicities in Israel.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5irNm6iK3Is]

Every want to learn how to make sufganiyot??  Look!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dKuqwk5Pi8&feature=related]

Funny yet smart telling of the Hanukkah story.  And a great lesson on how to play dreidel...I love the phrase, "Sliced Latkes".  I have a Sephardic Israeli cookbook and the author has a beef with the Ashkenazis...I'm paraphrasing but she basically said that Israelis only got potatoes a relatively short time ago-no Jews during the times of the temple had them.  Therefore, according to her, latkes aren't an important staple for the Hanukkah table.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G40SlkmZkqU&feature=pyv&ad=3786446408&kw=hanukkah]

I haven't heard the Yes We Can video in this way before!  How did I miss this??  Clearly it was years ago because the date for Hanukkah is off...but I'm checking out that website now!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWYelK2980M&feature=channel]

Last but not least-Seasame Street because everybody loves Elmo.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VfChLAADS8&NR=1]

I hope you liked those videos, I'm done with half of my shopping for our Friday Shabbat/Hanukkah party.  I'm trying to find really cool paper to print the prayers on for my friends and the rules for Driedel.  It's rainy in NYC and not snowly but I'll admit I have some child-like enthusiasm going into tomorrow.

Blogs about Hanukkah, conversion class and other musings of a New Jew

In Which I give my first talk as a Black, Gay Jew