Blogs by Jews of Color

Image: Food historian and Jewish educator Michael Twitty reads from a Sefer Torah. Photo by Jasper Colt, copyright Jasper Colt.

In this part of my series, More Diverse Than You Think, I’d like to introduce you to the voices of Jews of color via some excellent blogs. I’m a regular reader of most of these, and I discovered some new ones in the process of researching this post. Some of these folks are well-known outside the blogosphere; most are not. All are well worth your click and your time reading.

If you are thinking, “Who is a Jew of color?” you aren’t the first person to ask that question. I recommend you check out Erika Davis’ post Who Is A Jew of Color?

This is not an exhaustive list. I’ve left off some people whose blogs seem to be dormant right now, and I am absolutely certain there are blogs that I’m yet to discover. If you are aware of a currently-active blog I’ve missed, I hope you will share it with a link in the comments.

Individual Bloggers:

black, gay, and jewish: a gay black woman’s discovery of her jewish self is a blog by Erika Davis, who also writes for the JMN blog. To learn more about her, check out the About page on her blog. I like reading her because she challenges my assumptions and makes me think.

Afroculinaria is the blog home for Michael Twitty, a food writer and culinary historian. He works to preserve the food heritage of the South, and to holding up the culinary contributions of Africans and African-Americans to the American menu.  He’s a feeder and a healer, and quite a writer, too.

Manishtana is one of the longest-running blogs in this group, at various addresses since 2009. It’s tag line is “100% Black, 100% Jewish, 0% Safe.” The blogger describes himself as “Born Jewish, Frum From Birth.” He’s an interesting man with a lot to say; be sure to check out the extensive archive.

Sandra Lawson blogs at My Musings. She bills herself as “Sociologist, Personal Trainer, Food Activist, Weight Lifter, Vegan, Writer, Public Speaker & I’m Queer.”   She’s also the first African-American student accepted into the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Rabbinical Program. I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra at a retreat for LGBTQI Jewish clergy last winter and I can vouch for the fact that she has lots of interesting things to say.

PopChassid is the blogchild of Elad Nehorai, whose tweets I have admired for some time, although I only discovered his blog today. I learned about the blog reading Who Is A Jew of Color? on Black, Gay and Jewish. I am looking forward to reading his longer-form work, since I already enjoy what he writes in 140 characters. Elad describes himself as “wacky secular turned religious Jew who’s just trying to make the world a better place.”

Institutional Blogs:

The Jewish Multiracial Network sponsors the JMN Blog. It features a group of bloggers who are in themselves a diverse group, including a college student, a psychiatrist, adoptive parents, and a labor doula. They address a wide variety of topics.

Be’chol Lashon, the topic of yesterday’s post, also staffs Jewish&, an excellent blog on the My Jewish Learning website.  One thing I’ve noticed about Jewish& is its rich “Comments” sections – discussions there are remarkably civil and pertinent.

Check out these blogs and expand your Jewish world. I hope that readers who know of other blogs that should have been on this list will add them via the comments!

More Diverse Than You Think: Meet Be’chol Lashon

Be’chol Lashon is Hebrew for “In Every Tongue.” It’s also the name of an organization that fosters “an expanding Jewish community that embraces its differences.” They’re very serious about it, sponsoring research, community projects, grants, and not least a remarkable website full of resources for education about the wild variety of Jews in the world.

Here in the United States, we have a tendency to think that most Jews are of Ashkenazi descent. In fact, even here in the US roughly 20% of the Jewish population is something else: Sephardic, Persian, African-American, Asian, Mizrahi – and there I’m talking solely about born Jews.  There are also a lot of us who don’t look Ashkenazi because we converted to Judaism, and our ancestors are Irish, Dutch, German, or from somewhere else, like the Pacific Islands.

Be’chol Lashon seeks to stand on our common ground of Torah while celebrating the differences among Jews worldwide. It’s an ambitious project but one that I find inspiring.

Some critics may ask if this vision of Judaism is authentic: will such an embrace of diversity loosen our grip on Torah? Is this a fad? It’s a fair question. For an answer, I look to the stated goals of Be’chol Lashon:

  1. Build networks of global Jewish leaders
  2. Strengthen diverse Jewish communities around the world
  3. Educate Jews and the general public about Jewish diversity
  4. Increase the Jewish population by encouraging those who would like to be part of the Jewish people

It seems to me that these goals address a core value of Torah, the love of Am Yisrael, the Jewish People. They strive for an ingathering of the exiles, in this case, not a physical ingathering to the Land, but an ingathering of neshamot, of spirits. Too many Jews have been exiled from the larger Jewish community on account of superficial matters (“You don’t look Jewish!”) and in this generation after the Holocaust, it’s time we got over such trivial things.

If you are interested in expanding your own Jewish horizons, or if this dream of a larger, vibrant Jewish community speaks to you, check out their website, especially the educational resources.

The Jewish world is both larger and smaller than most of us imagine. It’s time we embraced our whole mishpocha [family.]