16 April 2007

Jewish/Latina: Hola & Shalom, hermana, sistah!

Something I put on the Message Board Forum of the Half-Jewish Network, in a thread titled "Half Jewish-Half Latin":

[if you're interested in the full discussion/post by D. that I was responding to, go to the thread]

D. said: "The problem with being a halfie is other peoples insistance on telling you what you should be instead of allowing you to decide for yourself."

Agreed! So (hard as it is), I think that we should be proud of who we are and of our necessarily complicated explorations of our rich mixed heritages -- which then will allow us to decide for ourselves. And even to make different decisions along the way, at different times.

D. says: "I'm not sure how to embrace being Jewish or if I even have the right."

You absolutely have the right to explore and determine what your Jewish heritage means to you: others can give information and models for what they think "being Jewish" is or should be, but they have no right to impose them upon you as the only correct way.

My mother & her side of the family are Jewish (she grew up as a Brooklyn Jew like Diana's dad), my father & his are not: he was born in Cuba to a Cuban Catholic mom & American Protestant dad, but raised in Kentucky and didn't learn Spanish until high school or college. My brothers & I are Jews, raised Jewish, and also aware of our Hispanic heritage--but without much "content" to that last part (my dad's parents died when we were all quite young, we're not in touch with that much of the Cuban part of our family, etc.--though we all did learn Spanish and I used to write/phone my great-grandmother in Miami in it when she was still alive, through my college years). So in a way it sounds like mine is something of the flip side of your experience: I feel thoroughly Jewish, and I have interest in my Latina side but wasn't immersed in that culture growing up.

I just checked the website for Makor (92nd St Y) in NYC and see that the main event featured there right now is the upcoming Feria Artistica weeklong celebration of Latino Jewish culture, with a big kickoff event April 29: http://www.92y.org/shop/category.asp?category=888Feria%5FArtistica888&adsource=mb_fera
Even though we are both Jewish and Latina but not from the same sides, it could be interesting to see how those 2 cultures go together...

It sounded from one of your posts like you live in NYC? And that you're more interested in cultural than in religious Jewish stuff? I would think that there should be lots of interesting Jewish cultural stuff at places like MAKOR/the 92nd St Y: I don't live in NYC but I have friends who do, so if you'd be interested in my finding out more for what you're specifically interested in/where you live or hang out, I'd be happy to. One of my best friends in NYC is a woman who converted to Judaism (on her own, not in a relationship with someone) about 10 years ago, so she knows what it's like to "join" a community and a culture as an adult, having been brought up outside it though with some interest in it.

I've only had good experiences, generally, with my Jewishness and mixed background. My husband converted to Judaism and similarly has had mostly good experiences (more of a rocky road in Europe). It may be that the more traditional someone is, the more they do see Jewishness as a closed club where only certain people who pass muster are welcome--but there are plenty of more progressive and cultural contexts where I would certainly hope that's not the case.

I hope that some of the information at places like interfaithfamily.com (which I think had an issue of their web magazine about Jews & Latinos recently?) and JOI.org would also help you feel more welcomed and to know that we are not alone, and there is institutional support for opening, not closing, the door to people like you & me. Anyway -- though I may not be someone who's "on your Jewish side" geneologically, I'm definitely "on your (Jewish) side" as someone else of mixed descent who wants to welcome you. Maybe your mom & my dad aren't the people that Brooklyn Jews expected your dad & my mom to marry -- but they did, and now you & I are here & laying claim to all parts of our heritage.

Shalom y un abrazo,



Jewtina said...

I am proud we can be both!

I have even started a Tee shirt line so we can embrace both.

I would love to send you one.

Shalom Hermana!

MiriyaB (Becca) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MiriyaB (Becca) said...

Shalom back atcha -- that sounds really cool! (I found your info e-mail address on the jewtina.com site and will drop you a line!)

Feliz Pesach -- best wishes to everyone out there in the blogosphere for a good rest of Passover!

MiriyaB (Becca) said...

P.S. I especially like the black and pink tank tops. :)