As a multi-racial individual, I often encounter the expectation that I should be or must be “liberal.” This, at times, has made me want to run the other way, and just to prove people wrong, be “conservative.”
Luckily, though, I have worked very hard not to let social pressures like that decide my very personal opinions on several issues. As a result, I like to think that I have managed to remain “liberal,” “conservative,” and “middle,” depending on the issue (as I think it should be).
Now, I am a religiously observant Jew, but also strongly identify as being multi-racial and multi-cultural. I am not in to denying my Japanese self, nor depriving myself of Japanese food, or other yummy “ethnic” foods. I am very in to being Japanese, Jewish, and a citizen of the terristial beings.
In the American Jewish community, there has been some movement to try to diversify people’s idea of who is a Jew. As in, you could look many ways–not just white, but also Arab, Asian, African, black, mixed of course, etc. There are organizations devoted to doing this through outreach, education, meetings, and retreats. Great.
Many of the organizations that work the hardest at this claim to be religiously pluralistic as well. After all, they are claiming that the American Jewish community should be strengthening themselves through inclusiveness, not exclusiveness. So, what point is there in them being exclusivist. Right?
Well, in fact, often they schedule events on Shabbat that no traditionally religious Jew could attend. They in fact, trample on the basics of traditional halakha in their events, I believe, out of ignorance. But, when all the activities are inherently optional, but only the so-called “religious activities” on the program are labeled as “OPTIONAL,” you got to start thinking, what is it that they are trying to do? Are they are trying to pass on their nebulous “cultural Judaism” to their ethnically and culturally “diverse” children, with no knowledge or sense of connection to Judaism? What “culture” are the children going to carry with them then? I thought Israeli society showed us plain and simple that there is no “Jewish culture” where there is no connection or observance of some religious Jewish practice?
I am not saying that they should all be religiously observant. What I am saying though is that I think that they assume that because we are “ethnically diverse” we will be “liberal” in other ways, such as in religious observances as well. To try to claim and pass down “cultural” Judaism in a ethnically as well as culturally “diverse” Jewish context has its own very serious problems, although I won’t get into it in depth here.
To say the least, it is disappointing to see such religious disregard coming from organizations specifically aimed at bringing “diverse” Jews together, and to telling the world that we exist, in numbers much larger than some might assume.
There was one organization that is for “Jews of Colors” and did manage to bring religious pluralism in practice as well. Unfortunately, I am unsure of what has happened to it….