I often find myself thinking about the kind of Jewish community I’d like to help build as a rabbi and or be a part of as a Rabbi. I want to find ways to connect with Jews that do not feel welcomed in Jewish communities. This is also a personal issue for me because as a queer Jew of color, I often do not feel safe or welcomed in Jewish spaces for a lot of reasons, but one is that my identity as a Jew, who is also a person of color changes the conversation of what a Jew looks like.
We live in a world where the larger Jewish community still sees itself defined along racial and ethnic lines and those ethnic lines do not include Jews of color. They also do not include Jews who have converted and or chosen Judaism and sadly Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews and Jews from other Jewish communities also feel left out. The larger Jewish community is connected to a narrative of an Eastern European past. I find it hard to connect with other Jews when they see themselves so connected to this narrative. There is nothing wrong with being proud of one’s family background, but today that same narrative does not work in a Jewish community where many Jews do not share that same background.
Today 20% of the Jewish community is racially and ethnically diverse. Many Jews have chosen Judaism, including many of the students at my rabbinical school. Slowly, more Jews of color are becoming leaders in the Jewish community, and there are more Jews of patrilineal descent. What does all this mean? I’m not sure. One thing I think of, is this means a growing Jewish population unburden by a collective tragedy. Does this have the potential to change the mindset of the Jewish community? I don’t know. I know for some in the Jewish community this means fear but for me and many others we are excited about the possibilities and we are excited for the Jewish people.