Black, Gay, and Jewish: JOC

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Black, Gay, and Jewish: JOC

JOC stands for Jews of Color. The term covers almost any ethnic and racial group and as a Jew to be, I find it a little...interesting. When you read the Torah African and Middle Eastern countries are always mentioned; Lebanon, Ethiopia, Egypt while European countries; Poland, Russia, France are never mentioned. Still, when you say "Jew" to the average American images of fairer skinned people with dark hair usually comes to mind. The fact of the matter is, that Jews come in all colors. It's a fact that some racist Jews don't like to think about, or want to think about but whether or not they choose to acknowledge it, it is fact.

Last week I went to a group focused on celebrating the multi-ethnic face of Judaism. The meeting was held at a Jewish company specializing in assistance for Jews located in Midtown. At the end of the two-hour long discussion I was more than amazed, but awed that I'd spent the last 120 minutes in a room of 18 Jews of Color. The experience cannot be put into a single word or phrase and instead many words come to mind. It was inspirational, eye-opening, confusing, regrettable, moving, challenging, awesome, comforting, intriguing, motivating.

The topic of the month was thought-provoking and centered around Ashkenazi privilege and the resulting effect of Sephardi identity. He talked about a wide variety of things, some of which I could not stomach, since my girlfriend is an Ashkenazi Jew. Most of it, though, allowed me to think. The thing that I realized and the most inspirational motivation around what I'm bring to Judaism is my past.

Sure people in NYC assume that Jews eat latkes on Hanukkah but that's not necessarily true of a Jew born and raised in Syria, for example. My girlfriend always wants matzo ball soup when she's sick and I always want chicken noodle. Food, one of the things so important in my life, is one of the many new ideas that I will bring to Judaism. I always assumed that black eyed peas and collard greens on New Years Eve was a "black thing" It never failed, that no matter how intense the hang over my mother would be up bright and early on January 1st cooking her collards and slow simmering the pound of black eyes she'd soaked the night before. At the end of the day, as 6PM dusk descended on my Midwestern home I felt black. I felt like I was doing something that only other blacks were doing as I dipped my homemade cornbread into the beans. Until I met my white, Jewish, Texan girlfriend who informed me that black eyes and collards aren't a just a black thing, they're a Texas thing, and I assume the same holds true for the whole of the south.

Comments [4]

cody72's picture

very cool!

i'm a Moroccan queer jew, and i will love to come see you speak. 

how can i get info of date and time?

Erika Davis's picture

Hey There

The organization is called Be'chol Lashon, it's a meeting place for Jews of Color.  It's not specifically queer but it will be a little gayer after next month!  Smile

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile

Ana T's picture


First, congrats on the speech-to-come. I'm sure it will be awesome.

Second, I grew up in a very diverse community in Canada, so I always knew that there as many ways to be Jewish as countries on this planet. The close-minded "Being Jewish = X" mindset that you find amongst some types in New York drives me bonkers as a result.

My Dad REFUSED to have traditional Ashkenazi food in our house. Gefilte fish? Never! Cholent? Don't even mention the stuff! It took me until I moved to New York and was faced with both week after week- and no alternative food on the table- to learn to eat all that bland Ashkenazi food. Seriously- there are more seasonings in the world than salt, pepper, onion and garlic!

One great thing about being a "Jew To Be" is that you get to choose your minhag. One of my Top 3 Passovers was when I hosted a Vegetarian seder. In fact, that's how I got dubbed Master Chef in my community, because of those meals. So choose whatever works for you and forget all the haters!

I'm glad you found a group that works for you and hope it continues to be both thought-provoking and comforting.

Erika Davis's picture


I'm excited and a little nervous.  It was only my first meeting with them, I'm not out to the entire group, which I suppose will change next month!  I'm not even sure what I'm going to talk about yet.  All I know is that I want to either start or end with a clip from "Trembling before G-d."


Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile