This past Shabbat, I was at this pretty progressive shul in Baltimore. I say progressive because I want you to understand that what I experienced is typical of my experiences in synagogues, and also typical of the experience of other Jews of color. Anyway, the service was really cool and we had this awesome discussion on King and Heschel.

During the oneg, after the service, this woman comes up to me. Let’s just call her “S”. The discussion went something like:

S: “Hi my name is S.” I replied with same. “…are ya Jewish”
Me: “I’m wearing a Kippah (pause breath)…Yes I’m Jewish”
S: “Well obviously you weren’t born Jewish!”
Me: “Why do you say that.”
S: “Well…Because you’re black!”
Me: “Well at least you’re honest.”

What was so surprising about this exchange was not that she asked me, “was I Jewish?,” or that she assumed I wasn’t born Jewish. It’s the fact that she was actually, to quote Mixedjewgirl, an honest bigot. Does that mean she should get applause? No, of course not. But usually when faced with these questions, and I ask back, I get every conceivable tap dance that one can imagine.

I did use the opportunity as a teaching moment and quickly educated S. on the diversity of the Jewish community, and the sheer numbers of Jews of color in the United States.

x-posted from TBLJ