Anonymous asked: pls clarify
lolz, about the Palestinian Jesus post I’m assuming? (I knew this was going to happen after I made that post saying you can ask me anything. But this is now proof).
Okay so the post is: Jesus was a homeless Palestinian anarchist who held protests at oppressive churches, advocated for universal health care and redistribution of wealth, before being arrested for terrorism, tortured and executed for crimes against the state, now go ahead and explain to me why he’d vote conservative. I’ll wait.
I don’t personally know enough about Jesus as a historical figure to confirm whether a lot of this is true — I don’t know if he advocated for universal health care, for instance. I’m assuming that idea comes from the New Testament where I think he’s described as healing the sick or something. Anyway. That’s not really the part I have a problem with.
What I do have a problem with is describing Jesus as a “Palestinian” who “held protests at oppressive churches” and was “arrested for terrorism, tortured, and executed for crimes against the state.”
My overall problem with this wording is that it is trying to frame the history of Jesus in a very particular way, and it definitely attempts to invoke images of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the apartheid in Israel and then describing Jesus as if he exists within this modern day situation and as if he would be described as a Palestinian. While Jesus certainly did come from the area that is Palestine, Jesus was a Jew. And he lived in a Jewish community and had Jewish parents and had a Rabbi and read the Torah and had dreams about positive change in the Jewish community.
He was not a Palestinian, so it’s simply ridiculous to refer to him as one. But my real problem with describing Jesus as a Palestinian is that that description comes out of a desire to affirm the fact that Jesus was brown (which he certainly was, and he certainly was not a POC, framing Jesus in modern day US centric terms is absurd for many many reasons). But Jesus cannot be brown if he is a Jew, he can only be brown if he is Palestinian (and I say this sarcastically) because of the ways people *love* to frame Israeli Jews as white oppressors and Palestinians as POC. This framing is done to make the situation easier to understand, but the conflict/apartheid that exists in Israel/Palestine simply does not easily fit into the white/POC dichotomy that we love to use as a placeholder for all things bad that happen in the world.
Furthermore, the description that Jesus ”held protests at oppressive churches” is really grating to me because well 1. Churches? Really??? and 2. It’s an obvious use of the popular antisemitic ideology that the Jewish community and Judaism as whole is *super oppressive.*
As far as I know (which I admit, is not a lot — I am not a historian on Jesus), is that Jesus was not “protesting oppressive churches” (urgh), but he had issues with some of the practices in Judaism and was seeking to change them: He had no interest in *destroying the church* or dismantling the *oppressive structure that is Judaism*. (My dad often describes Jesus as the first Reform Jew)
And anyway, Jesus was not “arrested for terrorism.” Terrorism is a modern term, referring to specific sorts of actions in a modern day sense. It does not refer to any sort of action that Jesus took. Also the whole wording of the post makes it seem as though those *oppressive churches* were in control of the state and his protests of the church were also crimes against the state. And so this wording makes it seem as if the churches (read: Jewish institutions) were the same as the state and so we are of course invoking another antisemitic image — that the Jews killed Jesus. Of course.
TL;DR This post is attempting to use modern day situations to describe historical events, subtly describing modern day situations in a problematic and simplistic way, and using antisemitic imagery to describe why Jesus was so great.
So my response: Jesus was a poor brown Jewish boy who advocated for change in the Jewish community, before being arrested, tortured, and killed by foreign rulers who had already done the same to many members of his community, followed by his memory and life being appropriated by the same ruling group that had murdered him. Now go ahead and explain to me why you would ever try to describe him in any other way. I’ll wait.
Hi—Susie the Moderator had asked if I wanted to submit something, and after a gap of many days, I have. If you have moved on and no longer need this, lemme know. I’m just proud that I stopped writing before I actually hit book length.
Stuff like this usually goes on my SemiticSemantics site, but I am also lodubimvloyaar as above.
Thanks for the opportunity!
Are Jews considered POC?
The short answer is, “Yes, no, and maybe.”
This is the long answer:
The terms ‘white’ and ‘people of color’ don’t work very well to describe many Jews, or many Jewish experiences. I’m going to try to explain why, and also to explain
The great majority of Jews are descended from an indigenous Middle Eastern people who, according to tradition, started from Iraq or Syria before settling in what is now Israel and Palestine. A global diaspora resulting from a series of invasions and population upheavals spread Jews across the map. We picked up some customs from the people we lived among, while preserving our own,and our own religion, legal code, and self-concept. We also picked up some genes along the way. Ashkenazim and Sephardim (these terms will be explained below) seem, according to modern genetics research, to be about 70% Middle Eastern, and 30% European. (I’m basically leaving Jews by choice out of this discussion, for several reasons, so I’m taking this moment to salute them and assure them that no disrespect is meant by this omission.)
The bulk of the diaspora can be split into three broad groups, distinguished by region, language, and minhag (a term referring to religious traditions). The Mizrahim, ‘the Easterners’, are the Jews of the Arabic-speaking world and their descendants, but the term is often also used for Persian Jews, and for Jews from West Asia and parts of the Caucasus. The Sephardim (from ‘Sefarad’, the Hebrew name for Spain) are the descendants of the medieval S*panish Jewish communities, expelled from Spain at the end of the fifteenth century, and Portugal during the sixteenth. And the Ashkenazim (from “Ashkenaz”, the Hebrew name for Germany) are the descendents of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe.
These groups are somewhat fluidly defined and described, not least because Jewish history has been one of continuous upheaval, expulsion and migration. Ashkenazi communities settled in parts of Turkey and other areas within the Ottoman Empire, and Sephardim ended up in Ottoman lands, Holland and North Africa. Mizrahim moved to France. Everyone moved to Israel and the United States. Marriages between the groups happened for centuries, and are now super-common in Israel. (As a well-known pop example, Jerry Seinfeld—yes, that Jerry Seinfeld—has an Ashkenazi father and a Mizrahi mother.)
The cultural divisions above, in addition, do not include the entire Jewish people, by any means. The Ethiopian community, for example, is an example of a large group that falls into an entirely different category, since their diaspora began earlier, and their religious practice reflects an earlier form of Judaism than the ‘beginning of the common era’ model the rest of us walked away with.
However, and this is something that is rarely understood by gentiles, and vitally important to any understanding of Jews, despite all of these cultural divisions and variations, we have actively considered ourselves a single people—am Yisrael—for thousands of years.
So, given all of this, are Jews people of color?
Some groups are undeniably ‘visible’ people of color, such as the Ethiopians or the Chinese communities, and no one attempts to define them otherwise. Ditto, visible people of color who are Jews by choice, or people of mixed Jewish and gentile PoC heritage.
Outside of this narrow zone, however, definitions get tricky.
Many European (both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews) have defined and do define themselves as white, since roughly the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the point at which the development of whiteness as a social construct intersected with the emancipation of the Jews of many European countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_emancipation#Dates_of_emancipation. Many of these hopeful dates, of course, reflected false promises. If whiteness was offered in many places in Europe in the 1800s, one might say it was revoked, emphatically, during a period of the 1900s. Nevertheless, this is the starting point of the idea that Jews could be ‘white people’ in any real sense.
I can’t emphasize enough that this access to whiteness was conditional on the borders and attitudes of gentile nations and cultures. The perception that Ashkenazim were always privileged for being white Jews is entirely false. This extended to some of the Mizrahi communities as well: for example, the wealthy Baghdadi merchant families
I also can’t emphasize enough that all of these groups have, throughout Jewish history, understood ourselves as one people, one am. Despite separations of distance, we shared a language, a religion, a legal code, and an understanding of ourselves as the descendants of common ancestors. I am not going to be romantic enough to insist that distance, cultural difference and gentile concepts of race never got in the way of this, but I find that it is very hard for most gentiles to accept how deeply it ran and runs, and how core the concept that all Jews are a single people has been and continues to be.
In the United States, my experience has been that most light-skinned Jews tend to identify themselves as white. It is how we are commonly perceived by strangers, at least in urban, ethnically diverse areas, and it is how we are defined (like Arabs) on government paperwork. It also reflects, in the last few generations, the degree of white privilege we are able to access. This is not a universal. Some Jews, identifying themselves primarily as people of Middle Eastern descent, or as people consistently targeted historically and in the present day by white supremacy, choose to define themselves outside of whiteness. It’s common for American Jews who feel this way to define themselves as ‘white-passing’ or ‘conditionally white-passing’. Many Mizrahim, regardless of skin color, describe themselves as people of color, because of their cultural and historical distance from what is usually defined as whiteness.
This is the United States. Europe is a different matter, and I would argue that, outside of, perhaps, Great Britain, it’s impossible to define European Jews as being white in a European context. I’m basing this on my own experience, and that of people I’ve been close to, as well as discussions with Jews living or raised in Europe. If a European Jew wants to weigh in with more detail about this, please, please do. In areas where the dominant Gentile cultures are not white, there are other issues, and the concept of white/PoC may be entirely irrelevant, or only relevant in the context of the country’s experience of colonialism.
My back went up when I saw the original question. For Jews in places where it’s a relevant question, whether we are white or not has often been a subject that gentiles feel free to pronounce upon, often with political objectives of their own in mind. Jewish oppression, both historical and modern, is often dismissed scornfully—if Jews are white, how can we possibly have been the victims of racial oppression, the reasoning goes. Non-Jews with little understanding of Jewish history and culture often weigh in as experts, announcing confidently that Ashkenazim are white and Sephardim and Mizrahim are PoC. Not only does this not reflect either historical or modern reality—and reveals that these weighers-in have met very few if any Jews who are not assimilated American Ashkenazim—but from a standpoint of Jewish social and political identity, it can be a direct attack on our self-definition and our concept of peoplehood.
Often, the results of outsiders imposing their ideas of whiteness or color on Jews results in the idea that Ashkenazim are white—and that therefore, their privilege outweighs their oppression as Jews—and that the ‘exotic’ Sephardim and Mizrahim are people of color. As such, the gentile ‘definer’ will agree that they can experience racism—from white people, and from white Jews—but the ‘definer’ will seldom bother to understand their experience of anti-Semitism, nor to understand that the source of this anti-Semitism was often other people who would be called people of color.
The result of all this is to drive an artificial wedge…one not based in Jewish thought…through the Jewish people, insisting that a sociological distinction based on the concepts of white-supremacist non-Jewish cultures defines Jews more accurately than our own cultural concepts, and is entitled to divide us from one another.
To the questioner: ask. Don’t try to put some thirteen million people who were, until recently, flung world-wide into such a small box. One Jew may tell you she is white, another that she is white-passing, and yet another that she is a woman of color. All three may look the same to you, or they may look different. Understand that even if they give different answers, they are tied to one another by thousands of years of history.
Edit: I just sent through a submission, then realized one sentence got truncated. The sentence is from toward the beginning and should read: “The terms ‘white’ and ‘people of color’ don’t work very well to describe many Jews, or many Jewish experiences. I’m going to try to explain why, and also to explain to some extent how Jews actually identify ourselves.”
Happy Sabbath to You Too
It all started six months ago when my husband and I first moved to Brooklyn. We had been living in South-East Turkey surrounded by family members and friends in the same complex. I wanted to bring that sense of “neighborlyness” with me when we moved to the U.S. and I also wanted the neighbors to know that even though I covered and looked like a terrorist from the desert, at least I was clean and friendly.
The first week we moved in, I made chocolate chip cookies. I know Americans—every one of them loves home-made chocolate chip cookies. That’s like a given. Every culture has a deep love and appreciation for something—English love chips. Turks love tea. Irish love…etcetera.
I was probably the first person to do this in the 21st century but that’s okay. I was going to be assertive in being a neighbor. My new neighbors were going to like me AND my chocolate chip cookies.
The first few doors I knocked on in the building gave me surprised but polite responses “What a nice idea, but I’m on a diet.” “Thank you so much, I’ll give these to my sons.” “This was so thoughtful! Unfortunately I have to watch my sugar intake you know because…” I had a feeling this would happen. I knew from movies a lot of New Yorkers were on diets, especially if they were old.
It wasn’t until I knocked on the last door that I realized most of them weren’t actually on diets.
It began normal enough. I knocked on the door and was greeted by three little voices that all chimed in “cookies!!” followed by an older woman who shooed them out of the way. I explained my mission in cookie making and assertive friendliness and the woman smiled and said “Thank you, but we’re kosher.”
"Oh! Nice to meet you" (trying to shove off 3 dozen cookies to very bubbly little boys)
"Thank you so much but we’re kosher."
Pause. “Oh okay. I’m Muslim.”
I had no idea what kosher meant. When I got home (2 flights of stairs later) I googled it and realized that the reason my cookies weren’t the assertive success I thought they were was because I lived in an extremely orthodox jewish neighborhood that followed a strict dietary regiment (that, by the way, did not actually shun sugar).
I then realized that all of those weird Ks on packages in the market actually meant Kosher. Skirts were not an in fashion statement but a Jewish sunnah. No pizza stores open on Friday night was not an accident.
At first, I felt weird. I never lived by Jews before. Even before my conversion, I barely knew any jews outside of extremely (and I use extremely lightly there) liberal reformers I knew from my undergraduate days. Now I was living in an Orthodox neighborhood. Completely surrounded.
But I lived here now, whether I liked it or not and since housing was so hard to find and expensive ANYWHERE in the city, I was going to have to get used to it. So I vowed to continue to be an assertive friendly neighbor. And I wrapped myself up like a ninja, made a quick dua, and went, for the first time, to a Kosher bakery.
As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with “Shalom” by a small group of black-hat and bearded Uncles. These seemed like the jewish equivilent of old men in Turkey that sit around a shop all day drinking tea and talking, mostly because they are retired and have nothing else to do. I nodded and shuffled to the back where the cookies and cakes were. I explained to the woman working my prediciment and she assured me all of the cookies baked in the store were K-certified. So I picked out a dozen and she placed them in a container and slapped on a label with a giant K on it.
I knocked on the door again and the old woman with the three little boys seemed equally as surprised when I handed her a case of K-certified thumbprints. The three little boys again squeeled with excitement and inside I did too, knowing I did the right thing.
Every where (at least in the U.S. and specifically NYC) we see stickers and t-shirts with the logo “Coexist” spelled out with various religious emblems. Personally, I hate these. Coexist means just that—exist next to each other. It does not mean peacefully nor does it mean that we try to understand each other or accept each other for our differences.
When we make an attempt to truly understand each other’s lives, only then can we exist peacefully. This is the true example of interfaith.
As my little Jewish friends told me today before they stepped out of the elevator: Happy Sabbath to you too!
stupidjewishwhiteboy asked: I realized something odd a few days ago, which is that I only seem to hear about Roma deaths in the Holocaust or even current-day Roma issues from reposts on Jewish blogs such as yours, Semitic Semantics, or Null Toleranz Fur Nazis. Is this just because anti-Ziganism tends to go hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism, or because these are also SJ tumblrs, or what?
First of all, I would like to recommend the Roma blogs that I follow, including big-gadje-world and golden-zephyr. There are quite a few on tumblr, so you don’t have to get your Roma related current events from Jewish bloggers only.
But I do think there is something to be said for your guess that anti-Ziganism goes hand in hand with anti-Semitism. Ashkenazi Jews and Roma share a history of persecution by the hands of the same people, including the Holocaust which had in its goals the eradication of both our peoples. And today in Europe that history continues with the most virulently anti-Ziganist parties being anti-Semitic also and vice versa.
It’s interesting you bring up that it could be because the blogs you spoke of are social justice as well because I think both Jewish and Roma bloggers have become used to having our issues brushed aside, at best, and actively repeated through micro-agressions and assertions that we are not real people with real issues, at worst. Both Jews and Roma fall between the cracks as easily identifiable as white or POC and because of our histories in Europe where racism often doesn’t fall along clear cut colorist lines, the very different sort of persecution we face in both Europe and the United States (and the romanticization we face in the latter) baffle social justice activists and bloggers who aren’t used praxes of racism separate from color issues.
All of this leads to a solidarity I have found on tumblr between Jewish and Roma bloggers.
As a last note, however, the fact that you see Roma issues being discussed primarily on Jewish blogs isn’t just a sign of that solidarity but also a sign on the invisibility faced by Roma today, culminating in the silence on Roma victims of the Holocaust in so many memorials, museums, and ceremonies on the subject.
BREAKING NEWS: Swarthmore Hillel is the first campus Hillel in the country to become an Open Hillel!
Swat Hillel commits to dialogue and free speech on Jewish political issues - and rejects the use of Hillel International’s political litmus test to determine who gets to be included in campus Jewish spaces.
Check out the national campaign, started at Harvard in 2012: openhillel.org.
Full press release below the jump.