I’m rereading the book “Choosing a Jewish Life” by Anita Diamant. I started reading it around May of this year and read through it quickly. I had her other book, “Living a Jewish Life” and various other titles to get through so while I did, indeed, read it, I didn’t grasp very much of it. It’s still a quick read the second time around by now when I read the Hebrew transliterations I know that I’m pronouncing the words more properly.
One of the suggestions Anita makes in this book is that you start to make your life, your home, more Jewish by making little changes. She suggests dietary laws, subscriptions to Jewish magazines or newspapers as well as the “normal” mitzvahs like attending temple, keeping Shabbat, and reading Torah. Little by little I’ve been making changes to better Jewify my home and life. My next endeavor? Magazine and Newspaper subscriptions. I’m looking for resources that I can relate to. Those of a liberal and inclusive perspective I more closely identify with because I’m a black Jew. I’m still on the look out for a black Jewish publication so if any of you have suggestions, please let me know.
I’m also looking at those from an Orthodox perspective as well as a Conservative perspective so that I can learn. I think it would be naive of me to just focus on reform and more liberal Jewish practices because if I ignore others, I’m not really “getting it” or appreciating it. Google was very helpful in my search and my credit card is going to start to bleed soon if I subscribe to them all so I will not. I won’t get through them all, any way. Luckily, there are a few quarterly publications in addition to the weekly newspapers so I think I’ll figure something out.
Best thing I’ve found, though, is the openness for submissions and the writing contests! I’ve been keeping three separate notebooks; Black, Gay, and Jewish that I write in daily so that I can better shape my memoir. It’s great to see how the themes of belonging and sometimes feeling like an outsider in this skin of mine is mirrored in all three of my identities. There are times now when I don’t feel “gay enough” because I don’t fit into the stereotypical mold of what a lesbian is or is not. My childhood is filled with painful memories of peers or my parents telling me that I wasn’t black enough. Now, as I enter Judaica stores or flip through pages of Jewish magazines I’m hard-pressed to find a face that looks like mine.
On the other hand, I love a beautiful woman who I want to spend my entire life with. When I see her I get happy and I feel lusty at the same time. This fact, and my love, adoration, and attraction to women, in general, make me a lesbian. I’m undeniably black. I cannot change the kinky curly texture of my hair nor can I make my skin, that’s darker in the NYC sun, any lighter than it will be in December. While I’m not formally a Jew, inside I’m starting to feel Jewish. I actually said, “we” to Mirs the other day, instead of “them” when talking about Jewish people. We spent the night looking up Jewish names for our unborn children as well as for the Hebrew name I will take. I’m leaning to Charna, which is a Yiddish name of Slavic origin that means “black.”
These three identities are seemingly different but through the writing of my memoir and my pieces here and on VP, I’m beginning to realize that they’re not all that different because I’m making them three in the same.