Who is a Jew and what is Jewish?

There still exist an unspoken assumption, at least in this country that all american Jews are white, and of Eastern European descent. Using this concept of Jewish identity, Jews of color become invisible and or seen as somehow not “Jewish” or not authentically “Jewish.” I have had my Jewish identity questioned numerous times. I also know that I am not the only one. Many, Jews that do not fit into the box of what it means to be a Jew are often made to feel like they do not belong within the Jewish community. As an African-American Jew, I have often been in conversations with people that seem to believe that I am somehow not a real Jew and I often face a myriad of questions about my Jewish identity that are often invasive by people that I have just met.

The American Jewish fabric is changing and starting to look like the rest of america. Throughout history everywhere that Jews have lived they start to look like the rest of the community around them.  I’m kind of sick and tired of people forgetting that Judaism was started and thrived in what is now the Middle East and Africa; Judaism did not start in Eastern Europe. Like Marla Brettschneider writes

“Western academics tend to act as gatekeepers, primarily asking: Is “x” group (“truly”) Jewish?…Community members are asked to prove their Jewishness while explaining how they came to live in regions outside the areas that mainstream Jews generally associate with Jewish history…The stories of origin given by african and African heritage communities are expected to fit into existing narratives of Jewish exile, and to embody the tropes of Jewish history, migration patterns, and ritual observance common to that of larger, more established communities”

This is wrong and sadly I have often tried to fit my own complex Jewish identity into the framework that make since to most American Jews.

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