Limmud Boston is trying for their first year in Boston. I have never been to a Limmud however I have read about the lovely experiences people have had at Limmud NYC. Have you ever been to a Limmud?
Aliza Hausman has an interesting article on racism. The article is interesting because it made me think. A couple of things I thought were interesting was that all white people are described as one. It does not make room for the prejudices that the Italian, Irish and white Jewish people have had, all white people are the same.
I love reading Aliza’s blog. She is one of the few people I put on my blog roll. The second thing I thought about was how much I feel bad for Aliza. I am sure she does not want that, but I feel bad that she sees racism in everything.
Aliza has done something very few people do. Aliza converted from the secular Dominican New York community into the homogenious Orthodox community. This community has very few outsiders nevermind a Dominicana. This community does and says some really weird things. This does not surprise me for a community that is so insular. It is not as if this community hangs out with Dominicans or any other subculture in the US. They are orthodox Jews. It is all about them and no one else. So Aliza is rebelling from their stupid ways.
Taking the definition of racist as anything from a group of people using race as a means to subjugate them to being unaware of stupid things one might say, seems like a bit of a stretch.
White Americans and people of color in this country different significantly in their definitions of racism (Blauner 1994). Most whites think in terms of the oppositional categories “racist” and “not racist.” Whites in the “racist” category are defined as disliking or hating blacks and other minorities, and their animosity is portrayed in acts or statements that are blatanly racist (Jaynes and Williams 1989). The white definition of racism is problematic because it does not recognize racism unless it is blatant and/or intended; neither does it acknowledge institutional racism.
I am not sure how this definition takes into account the well meaning white guy. The “white” definiton of racism is problematic because who the heck are we talking about. Asking people the definition and then taking their point of view is a strange way of defining something.
However, some points I would like to make are: making fun of the way names sound in a different culture is naive perhaps stupid at times but does not qualify as racist. Unintended and institutional ways of putting people down by race is racist, I agree. Intolerance and lack of knowledge between 2 groups does not make one racist. Stretching the definition to everything every person feels is not helpful.
For example, black women report that whites often seem surprised to find that a black person has a college degree or is a professional.
Is this really racist? Could be. Could it be that the people do not encounter black people enough and live in their own segregated world?
As a Jew I am sure you can come up with many of these kind of things. Are they all antisemitic? Are they stupid or naive? “Jews are terrible at sports. Or how about I can’t believe your Jewish cuz your poor?” Does that make the person antisemitic?
All this seems to be much closer to the glass half empty version of the world. It reminds me of the lacromonious historical accounts of Judaism. Jews are so picked on and in every generation someone does it again. It is horrible having the life of a Jew. How about having the life of a minority community that has been wiped off the face of the earth? How about the major communities, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Roman, Greek – which of these communities survived - none.
Please do not think that every stupid comment by a “white” guy is racist and I won’t be blind to the fact that obstacles are still in the way for many minority communities. At the same time remember that you can succeed and you can change the world if you rise above it all
The Well Meaning White Guy
The director of education says she is looking at the ways we can infuse Israel at all levels of education through out the temple. She wants things from the passive charts on the walls to changing the curriculum of the Hebrew school classrooms.
Everyone seemed relatively excited about the idea. It bothered me a bit. Here is note I sent:
Something did not sit quite well with me on this topic so I wanted to let you know of my thoughts. I do believe that it is important to teach the very valuable things that Israel has to offer. I also do think everyone can learn more about Israel.However, my issue is that this can be very one sided. Israel is not something to be worshiped. It is a country. It happens to have a lot of Jews but not all of them. I find that American Jews do not even know about themselves. They do not know about Jewish history in the US. They do not know about the importance of religion in their own lives, in their own communities.If I was to infuse anything it would be the importance of being Jewish in America. Infuse the importance of the Jewish people outside of Israel.So I would ask if we are going to infuse Israel that we also put an equal or more emphasis in infusing the US in the temple or perhaps it is US/Israel in the temple. I think there needs to be a balance in the reality of the Jewish world and that is not having an obsession with Israel only.If there is a map of Israel – how about a map of the Jewish communities throughout the world or the US. If there is talk of religion in Israel, how about some profiles of American communities.Yes it would be great for all people in our community to visit Israel and to know her. But I think it more important to “stand at Sinai” and hear the revelation then it is to stand on Zion and feel its stones.
I have taken on the role of leading (with another fellow) the “Adult Learning Committee” as it is named.
One of the questions that has been asked is “why is it when the temple puts on all these cool educational opportunities does the same 30 people always show up? Why is it that no one else comes?”
This is an interesting question about community. When you have a large group of people that affiliate with a synagogue or other organization, how do get people to come? There are plenty of reasons and excuses of why people do not take on these educational opportunities. However, this little committee really cannot answer the question of what it is that the community is looking for?
What if they stopped providing these educational programs would people notice? We do not know.
So what I have asked the people on the committee to do is go out and talk to five people. I want them to start with finding out what the persons relationship to Judaism is. I want to where are people coming from? What is the context of their lives?
From here we will start mapping out what people are interested in. What I am positing is that this process of listening will help define what kind of things we should be offering to bring more people in? How? I think the future will emerge from these conversations and we can look backwards at today and say “what do we need to do to move us toward where people want us to be?”
I think we should be able to get every adult involved in a learning opportunity over the year. My guess is that is around 1000 people.