I just returned from the residency I did for the Jewish Multiracial Network, located at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. As part of my programming I worked with the youth staff to generate a series of questions regarding Jewish Identity. These questions then set the framework for the theater games (inspired by theater of the oppressed) and the flag books that we made over the course of the weekend. not everyone got around to answering these questions at the retreat, however here is a new chance :). So I now invite anyone and everyone to participate in finding answers to these questions ( , non- , Jews, non-Jews..... )What do you need from society, yourself, the Jewish Community to recognize diversity and to become aware of racism, sexism, homophobia (oppression) both internalized and experienced and the times you yourself have been racist, sexist , homophobic, and then move past to create change?What do you do when you are in an uncomfortable situation regarding your Judaism?Do you have a Non-Jewish side, what is that like?What makes a person culturally Jewish?What make you a Jew in your everyday life?Define what makes someone Jewish.Name your greatest Jewish moment.Why are you Jewish?What does a Jew look like?Did you ever not feel Jewish?What is it about being Jewish that makes you most proud?What do you love about being Jewish?What was your weirdest Jewish Experience?Have you ever questioned your Jewish Identity?Has anyone else ever questioned your Jewish Identity?Have you ever questioned another persons Jewish Identity?What symbols represent Judaism for you?What non-Jewish activities do you partake in that to you are “Very Jewish”?What is your responsibility as a Jew of color?What is your responsibility as a Jew?
On an almost daily basis, I receive emails from people asking if I am in fact actually Jewish. Although I do find it somewhat bizarre that they find satisfaction in my acknowledgment of what I have already stated numerous times, I usually respond. Come to think of it, the occasions where I have been accepted as a Jew (without further questioning) have been few and far between.
- “ No you can’t be Jewish you are Hispanic”
- “You don’t look Jewish”
- “Escobar… is that a Sephardic name?”
Recently I discovered that without our knowledge, the validity of my own and my brother Gonzalo’s Jewishness has come into question (to the point where documentation has been requested) from people that we are now very close with.Below are some of the examples of comments (not emails, I do not share the content of emails without permission) from youtube:
roundedwhtcollar Am I the only one who thinks this reprobate Turd is NOT in fact a Jew? Rafaelpicc But is her las name jewish? or converted? ReptorY her last name isnt jewish. xruchy you are not jewish i guess... tus videos= cero aporte raquelita40 she's half Jewish/ half Guatemalan.
nakedjanet i am also suspicious. for one thing, escobar is not a typical Jewish name. For another, Jewish girls are usually a whole lot smarter, and have a whole lot more substance, than this girl has
(from chaptzem blogspot) There is no way she is Jewish- there may be a small chance her family are anusim or something.But what gets even more bizarre is that interspersed with in those comments are horrible anti-semitic statements:
johnnycastle86xx all the jews have to die, stupid jewish puta de mierda. Que mierda que Hitler no mato a tu familia, asi tu no hubieras nacido. muerte a los judios y muerte a israel. mocrostyle3600 AnotherJewish nasty bitchmrrimfire She's an ugly cockroachfilet there's a nice Jewishcrew- club... Its re-open and called Auschwitz. the drinks are on the house!!! but only for jewish people roshanpinto13 i want to put you in a concentration camp bitch if your people want israel so bad why don’t you go there and rid the world from your hideous jewish ways
So in light of my sarcasric sense of humor I entitled this post : Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish I wonder what will come of that statement... From Judaism 101: Who Is a Jew?
First, traditional Judaism maintains that a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew, regardless of who his father is. The liberal movements, on the other hand, consider a person to be Jewish if either of his parents was Jewish and the child was raised Jewish. Thus, if the child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother is raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Reform movement, but not according to the Orthodox movement. On the other hand, if the child of a Christian father and a Jewish mother is not raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Orthodox movement, but not according to the Reform movement! The matter becomes even more complicated, because the status of that children's children also comes into question.
In my case my mother is Jewish and my father is not. Yet it is my father that pushed me to go to Hebrew school until I was 16. Rain or shine my parents have been attending Shabbat services at JRC for almost 20 years. I remember being so mad as a child that my friends got to go out on Friday nights, and I was stuck with my family not even allowed to watch TV when we got home from services. Vickie Korey left the nicest comment on my Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog:
I remember Maya at Friday night services at JRC, sometimes listening intently, sometimes reading, but always being present. When one of the children of our extended spiritual family grows to be such a fine, thoughtful and accomplished young woman we are all proud. Gonzolo and Tina have worked hard to set a strong foundation for Maya and I am so pleased for her and her family.
A few months ago I met with my Rabbi to discuss my (art) work. During our discussion I mentioned to him how my father is feeling really nervous about me having an orthodox wedding where he will not be included in the ceremony. Brant said something to me that really touched my heart. Your father is the essence of what a Jew is, he is a stranger in a strange land. I agree with him whole-heartedly, and if you ask most JRC members I am sure they would agree as well. However that does not change the fact that he is not considered to be Jewish by our neighbors, and even if he converted, to them it would not be halakhic unless he went through orthodox conversion. So who is a Jew? Who determines this?As I stated in a previous post I will be working as the art director this summer for Camp JRF. I am in the process of creating this summer’s curriculum that will be geared towards answering these very questions and challenging notions of Jewish Identity. Below is a very rough sketch of my plan…. (Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or would be interested in contributing any resources) The Changing Face of Jewish Identity: an exploration of self and what it means to be a Jew in our contemporary societyTo introduce the concept of a changing Jewish Identity will discuss the following:
- How do we define ourselves/ how do others define us?
- Who is a Jew?
- Can someone be more or less Jewish/ who decides this?
- What is our role in society?
- What characteristics make up a Jew?
Mediums Mixed media sculpture Art Exhibitions The Jewish Identity Project Too Jewish Challenging Tradition Identities Written Works by Ilan Stavans Achy Obejas Rebecca Walker Campers will produce mixed media sculptures that reflect their perception of what it means to be a JewPre- Activities:
- We will begin as an ice breaker/ intro to project identifying the characteristics that make up Jews.
- Followed by a discussion on contemporary representations of Jews in Popular culture
Project Campers working in groups of 3-4 will have the option of creating either abstract or representational mixed media sculptures that to them represent Jewish identity. Prior to the construction of their piece students will need to create a (flexible) proposal that outlines their piece.
- Will it be site specific (interact with a certain location)?
- What form will it take?
- Will it have a function?
- What materials will be used based on the above?
If they end up going with more representational sculptures I thought it would be really cool to photograph the sculptures and to place them in various Jewish settings and non-Jewish settings (baseball stadium, temple, Shabbat dinner, work, school....)