May 20 2014
Sometimes I worry that I talk about Judaism too much. As much as I use the words Jew, Jewish, or Judaism, I’m saying them in my head even more. It’s become a tic of sorts, a knee-jerk reaction to the random information that comes at me all day long. What’s more, I have this habit of looking for fellow Jews in situations where a person’s religion or heritage is irrelevant. I worry that it’s gone too far.
A friend tells me her sister met a great guy. Is he Jewish? I think, but don’t ask. My book club (where I’m always aware of being one of two Jews) will discuss a novel that takes place in New Zealand in the 1950s, and I wonder if there were any Jews in New Zealand at that point in history. My son gets placed on a soccer team in our suburb of few Jews and I automatically scan the list looking for a possible Goldberg or Cohen.
I did not grow up this way. To tell you the truth, I knew few non-Jews in the very Jewish North Shore Chicago suburb where I spent my childhood. Sure, my parents and grandparents did the typical ethnic pride maneuver of taking personal credit when a Jewish person won an Oscar or a Nobel Prize. They felt the requisite shame, too, when a Jew made the news for doing anything illegal. But on account of being surrounded by Jews most of the time, I don’t remember my family or anyone else actively looking for others like them. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 12 2014
“What are you?”
When asked this question, I always say that I am an American Jew. As the fourth generation to be born in New York, I don’t align myself with other countries. Many European nations expelled their Jewish populations. If they didn’t want my family, why would I claim them now? But my answer masked a simpler truth: For most of my life, I didn’t know where I came from.
Relationships with my father’s family were strained. I didn’t want to hurt him by dredging up a past best left buried. Details trickled out over the years, and I had to be satisfied with those. I had lots of contact with my mother’s side, but my mother never asked about our immigration story. This completely baffled me, but she lived her life surrounded by a large family. She never wondered about those that were gone. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 11 2012
Do I need to ditch my ex-Soviet roots?
The JCC of the Upper West Side (in New York City) held an art exhibition last month. It was called “Migrants Nation” and, according to curator Vitaly Umansky, “Artists represented in this exhibition underwent assimilation either into an Israeli or American reality; they all have personal stories; they are all individuals. However, they all share one history. Regardless of the environment to which they had to assimilate to, they all have different levels of nostalgia, analysis, and assimilation.”
All of the artists in the exhibition were born in the former Soviet Union, and all emigrated as children in either the 1970s or 1980s. Exactly like me. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 19 2012
We don't all look like this.
I’m not a mother, yet, but I hope to be one day. I enjoy reading Kveller for a variety of reasons, one of them being my 90s obsession with Mayim Bialik, and others have to do with my obsession with motherhood. I’m a 32-year-old black, lesbian Jewish woman madly in love with an Ashkenazi Jewish woman from Texas. While we’re definitely not in the place where we’re making plans for children, it’s on our radar. Read the rest of this entry →