erika davis is a washington state-based writer, blogger and jewish diversity advocate. For almost 8 years she recorded her journey to judaism in her popular blog, Black Gay and Jewish. Today she blogs about her life in the PNW and occasionally writes in third person

In Which I find Yitz Jordan and Jews of Color and find BG&J Part 1

To this day it's still shocking that I didn't end up an Israelite or a Messianic Jew. There are blog posts about this in the future (or past), but these next posts reflect my desire to find Jews of Color, specifically black Jews. Little did I know that a few years after these posts were written, my now friend, Y-Love, would come out as a black, gay Jew as well!

 

I Heart Y-Love

Sat, 14 Aug 2010 00:40:59, erika, [category: aliza-hausman, category: black-jews, category: jews-of-color, post_tag: jews-of-color-2, category: what-color-is-a-jew, category: y-love, category: yavilah-mccoy]

Behold the powers of the Internet.  After temple today I came home, opened my bottle of Kosher wine, finished my raisin challah and started searching for more black Jews.  As far as I can see there aren't any black temples to speak of in NYC.  As I mentioned in my Amare Stoudemire post, I don't need my temple to be black, per se.  It does, however, need to be diverse.  It needs to be diverse ethnically and in terms of sexual orientation.  I'd like to see some people of color, young people, older people, couples and singles.  Ideally there will be a LGBT committee and if there isn't one, I'd volunteer myself to form one.

Clicking away with Google I came across the website for The Jewish Multiracial Network.  How I've gone this long without the discovery, I'll never know but the point is that I found it.  Digging around there I discovered that you folks with cable TV have The Jewish Channel and on The Jewish Channel was a show called Jews of Color.  On Jews of Color, I found Yitz Jordan, aka Y-Love, a Hasidic Jew.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2IeonZubDw]

Yeah, and I may have an itty bitty crush, not gonna lie.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHx9dZOVz4Y]

Okay, I clearly don't have a crush on this man because 1. I'm gay and 2. I have a nice Jewish girlfriend but it's quite amazing and awesome for me to have found him.  I'm not going to assume that because we're both black and Jewish that we'll be friends but maybe I can get some insight?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suWNpeRSuKU

Besides Y-Love I also found two other of the speakers to be quite moving and inspirational and, of course, went to look them up on the internet as well.  The first is Yavilah Mc Coy, a 3rd generation black Jew.  Guess what?  According to the fabulous powers of the Internet, her organization, Ayecha, has offices in NYC!

Lastly, I found Aliza Hausman, author of the blog Memoirs of a Jewminicana http://www.alizahausman.net/ , an Orthodox Jewish woman of Dominican decent who...Lives in NYC!  Now, the question becomes, how to find all of these people arrange meetings/interviews with them without being a stalker?  My powers of persuasion and amazing writing skills, that's how!  Stay posted for my progress and in the meantime, re watch those videos!


 

Am I a Conservative Jew?

Sun, 15 Aug 2010 19:45:38, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: black-jews, post_tag: conservative-judaism, category: high-holy-days, post_tag: jewish-denominations, category: jews-of-color, post_tag: orthodox-judaism-2, post_tag: pre-conversion-posts, post_tag: what-kind-of-a-jew-are-you, category: what-kind-of-jew-are-you]



M seems to think so so I did some more researching.  I'm not going to lie, there's something a bit off-putting when I hear the word Conservative.  I know that the Conservative that main-stream society thinks of and Conservative Judaism are different but the word itself has definite negative connotations at times.  For instance, I started with typing "Conservative" into my Google search engine and here are just some of the gems that came up.

I mean, even Charlotte York was confused when Harry Goldenblatt ordered pork. Figuring out what kind of Jew to be is hard.

So am I a conservative Jew (to be).  I don't know.  It's just another piece of Jewishness to be added onto my big ole plate of Jew.  I actually hadn't thought about it or learned about the movement as much as I have the Reform so I'm quite mystified.

There are things that I'm comfortable doing which would point to Conservative Judaism.  For instance, I haven't missed temple on Sabbath for an entire month now, I read the Torah daily, I pray a lot, and I'm keeping a Kosher Kitchen (as of September 8th)  I have a new-found love and respect for Talmudic writings, the 5 books for my conversion class are on their way from Amazon in addition to the 2 Sephardic Israeli cookbooks I ordered so there's no way I'm ordering a box set Talmud any time soon.  I've got readings and websites coming out of both ears and all I'm really preoccupied with right now is planning Rosh Hashanah dinner.  With all of those things, and the fact that I haven't found a rabbi yet-I'm still on the path of discovery and of conversion which means at this point it's all up in the air.

Which denomination am I converting to?  Not sure yet.   On Wednesday I have a meeting with NYCs LGBT temple and on Friday I'm meeting with a rabbi of a west side Temple so there's still time.   On the other hand, two of my new favorite Jews of Color, Aliza Hausman, a Dominican Orthodox Jew and Yavilah McCoy, a black Orthodox Jew are both, well, Orthodox.  I came to bed the other night with a silk scarf on my hair and Mirs asked me, slightly horrified and slightly but, cautiously supportive, "Are you going to be an Orthodox Jew?!"  I can understand her concern.  I've been obsessively reading all that I can about both Aliza and Yavilah not to mention one of my new favorite blogs, Jew In the City, about an Orthodox Jewish Woman.

I assured her that my obsessions were just that-obsessions and elation at finding not only other Jews of Color but Orthodox Jews of color.  It seems that a lot of the non-white Jews that I'm finding online have chosen Orthodox conversion or were born into Orthodox families.  In term of "legitimacy" if I chose to do an Orthodox conversion I could walk into any temple any where and know that I was a "real" Jew.  There are changes afoot in Israel currently on such topic so I know that I won't have to (and have no desire) convert Orthodox.

My interest in the Orthodox has been one of curiosity and I'll admit, fascination.  The Conservative movement seems like a "middle ground."  Giving my Shabbat observance, my desire to be Kosher, and my need to study, read, and pray on a daily basis it seems like a good choice.

Does it matter?  Yes and No.  Yes, because I'll be converting in a temple before a bet din and get submerged in a mikvah to come out on the other side as a Jew-I'll have figured out who my rabbi will be and which synagogue in NYC will be my new home.  No, because I still have a lot of time.   Something as important as converting needs time, reasearch, and thought and cannot be rushed.

So there is no answer, really.  I'm still just me, only more Jewish.


 

Behold the Powers of the Internet (again)

Mon, 16 Aug 2010 23:58:45, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, category: black-jews, category: who-is-a-jew]


Apparently I've been living under a rock.  I just discovered the online "newspaper" that is the Huffington Post.  I use quotations around newspaper because I'm an old fashioned girl, I like my newspaper in paper form.  It makes me a horrible environmentalist, I know, which is why I don't buy them often.  Still, there's something nostalgic about reading the Times on the subway.  Very old school New York, like you see in the movies.

 I digress, on Huffington Post I found two articles about Judaism that I found inspirational.  The first, written by Paul Golin titled, "Who's a Jew-Redefining Jewish Identity for the 21st Century" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-golin/whos-a-jew-redefining-jew_b_682124.html and the second by Yvonne Durant titled "One African American Family's Journey to Judaism"   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yvonne-durant/one-african-american-fami_b_660836.html

I now have a Huffington Post account and have been spending the evening finding articles and links on diversity in the Judaism and came across this site, http://bechollashon.org/  It's kind of amazing. 

on Facebook two of my former associates, both Jewish, are doing their part to welcome me into the Tribe.  One, currently in Israel is bringing me back a shofar, just in time for Rosh Hashanah.  The second, has extended an invitation or Shabbat celebration!

To make my day even better I received 1 out of the 7 books I ordered from Amazon.  This one, a small Sephardic Israeli cookbook, lacks pictures but is filled with wonderful, Kosher foods.

I took a nap around 4 today because I was feeling depressed.  When I woke up, after talking with Mirs and reflecting on all of the good in my life I realized that there's more good to be excited for rather than bad to stay depressed.


 

Black, Gay, and Jewish

Wed, 04 Aug 2010 17:19:20, erika, [category: uncategorized]

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my memoir titled, "Black, Gay, and Jewish."  I've posted several enties on my personal blog but these posts have started to take over so I felt like they needed their own, seperate home.  So welcome, and enjoy!


 

Black, Gay, and Jewish-Part 1

Tue, 10 Aug 2010 01:16:36, erika, [category: black-gay-and-jewish, post_tag: black-gay-and-jewish-2]

**This was originally posted on my main blog in May of this year**

Like the title?  It's a play on Rebecca Walker's memoir, Black, White, and Jewish, which is on my long list of books to read about Jewish Identity.  Now before you page back trying to figure out what you've missed rest assured you haven't "missed" any big announcement.  I'm not Jewish, I'm still a_______.  It's just something that I'm considering.  This considering converting issue has been a little bit of a debate as of late.  I suppose the word debate is completely wrong because no one has really been debating with me.  Folks just seem to have really strong opinions and strong reactions.  Funny thing is, most of those opinions and reactions are coming from all of my non-Jewish friends.  None of them are strongly affiliated to any religion that I am aware of.  Some of them affiliate with family beliefs, others don't talk about religion and don't seem particularly observant to me.  Yet, everyone's got an opinion from a raised eyebrow of suspicion to a pointed "Why?!"  and the latest, "you should do some soul-searching"

The soul-searching comment came from my sister and the funny thing is, I've been wanting to tell her to do that for 10 years!  I'm not getting into that shit because it pisses me off.  I will say this, you'd think that the one person who maybe would save the judgement call would be her.  For all of her faults, my frustrations and anger at her decision making I've tried so hard not to pass judgement on her.  Here I am making an adult decision that would virtually only affect me and my future children and she's judging me as though I've announced that I've decided to worship Satan.

Rant about my sister is over.

There is a saying that goes, "Not all who are lost wander.  Not all who wander are lost"  This is the perfect metaphor for me and my life.  It can be and has been said that I am always searching for something.  That something is most definitely, without a doubt, my identity.  I've been searching for what and who Erika is for as long as I can remember.  It occurred to me about 5 years ago that I was looking at myself right in the mirror-but I'd chosen to ignore me.  I was talking and I wasn't listening.  Instead I was really, really good at making myself into the mirror images of everyone around me.  I'm astoundingly good at making myself into what someone wants me to be, a.k.a, what's comfortable for them.  As a result, I'm still a wicked-good liar.  It was going to happen that way, I've spent the majority of my life lying to appease others.

There was something amazingly cathartic about leaving home.  For some it is unmentionable, something you'd never do, never consider, never an option.  For me, it was my only choice.  And it's not that I'm turning my back on my parents, my home, my history per se moreover I'm allowing myself to better appreciate my parents, my home, my history.  In terms of coming out I made a choice.  I could live the life I wanted to live privately and continue to lie to my parents or I could live the life I wanted to live openly and risk losing them.  Knowing my parents I was quite certain that I wouldn't lose them but rather my history of molding myself into the image of others would be thrown back into my face.

My coming out letter (I don't recommend sending a mass e-mail) catapulted a serious of heated e-mails zipping back and forth through the internet from my father to my cousins to my mother and always back to me with the great and amazing horror that became the "Reply All" button.  In the end those who know that I'm gay either don't talk about the fact that I'm gay or have forgotten the entire incident.  My mom knows who M is and that we're together.  She's even gone as so far as to tell me which US cities are gay-friendly.  Yet, when I told her that I wanted to talk about something with her this weekend in DC she asked if it was about my "condition."  Okay, I don't think she actually said condition-she actually said "situation" which is equally appalling, like it's some sort of under the table, back door, dirty family secret I wasn't to discuss.  (Am I a dirty family secret?)  Seriously, everybody knows I'm a homo!

I told her not to worry, M and I weren't married or engaged yet and she breathed an audible sigh of relief.  So when I told her that I was thinking about converting to Judaism she dismissed it, as she's done with my sexuality.  I suppose I understand, I have thrown a lot of things her way but the reaction that I got was a bit unexpected.  Maybe it's because I chose the words, "considering" rather than just saying, "I'm converting"  The reason I did it in that way is because I'm still not sure.  I'm strongly leaning in that direction but I only stepped foot into a synagogue last week and the idea of not doing any type of work on Shabbat is still daunting.  I'm already knee deep in shit at work for the mention of applying for the Peace Corps (did I mention that part, too?) how am I going to explain to my boss that I need to start observing Shabbat?  I'm sticking with my guns on this one.

Everything.  Literally everything from playing grade school basketball, to running for class president, to attending UD, to pledging a sorority, to my brief stint as a pagan has been to fit in to whatever group I wanted.  This living my own life thing is harder than I imagined and it's taken until now, 30 years old, for me to feel comfortable with rejection of those closest to me, my family.  So welcome, readers, to this fun new world of self-discovery.  Black, Gay, and Jewish will be weekly observations and I hope you enjoy it.
 

The Posts where I fret about which shul to convert at and Rosh Hashanah

In Which I get Jew-Bashed, Reflect on Jewish Prayer, and Ramadan

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