Religion & Beliefs

Black, Gay, And Jewish: I’m A Member Of The Tribe

I come from a strong black family that I get support from, but I don’t have a Jewish family. Read More

By / September 27, 2011
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When reflect on the term “Member of the Tribe” a lot of images come to mind.  It sounds a bit primal, it sounds cultural, it sounds communal, it sounds familial.  The community, cultural, and familial aspects of Judaism have always been the hardest ares for me to feel connected to, while the spiritual is easy.  I come from a strong black family that I get support from, but I don’t have a Jewish family.  I have a strong cultural heritage that is not yet Jewish.  I have a rich queer community that sometime overlaps with my Judaism but rarely with my black community.  So how does a black lesbian woman blend her culture to a Jewish culture that has been in existence since the dawn of humanity?  I still don’t have the answer, but in the past week I have definitely felt what it means to be a part of the broader Jewish community.

As mentioned in the Daily Jewce last week I was awarded a scholarship to visit Israel with LGBTQ Jewish groups Nehirim, Keshet and A Wider Bridge.  Having been unemployed since June the prospect of finding the money for a flight to Israel seemed quite literally an impossible dream.  I figured that I would open a Paypal account, hold my breath and pray.  I didn’t pray, “God help me go to Israel!”  but instead prayed, “If it is meant to be, it will be.”  Less than a week after setting up the account it is fairly safe to say that I will be going to Israel because of my Jewish community.

I’ve received plenty of donations from my friends who are Jewish and those who are not. Colleagues have donated as well as my rabbis, but the most unexpected has been donations that I have received from people I’ve never met, from states and countries I’ve never visited.  One donation in particular came from a woman who was “paying it forward” since she’d received financial help when she traveled to Israel.  Besides the outpouring of money flowing into my Paypal account, the messages and e-mails of support and encouragement that I receive every day has been more than overwhelming.  The Jewish community can never replace my black community or my lesbian community and I don’t want it to.  That said, the response from the Jews around the world sending their hard-earned money to send me, a stranger, on a journey to a country not everyone agrees with is incredible.

Every day I open my e-mail account and have notification that I’ve received a donation and every day I thank God.  In one week I got a job, I got a scholarship to go to Israel, and I’ve received donations.  I’m a spiritual person, but not always a “It’s because of God” kind of person.  Last week I couldn’t help but wonder, if it’s not God then who is it?  Is it just the kindness of strangers, is it the “it takes a village (a Tribe)” mentality, is it luck, is it fate?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that wonderful things are happening in my Jewish life and I feel like I’m part of the Jewish Community not because of the donations, but because of the love and support.

People still ask me why I chose to become Jewish when the cards were already stacked against me.  I’m black.  I’m a woman.  I’m a lesbian and I’m a Jew.  It doesn’t seem like those things, these communities go together.  In the end they are just labels. It’s just the name of my blog and the name of this column.  They aren’t what make or define me, they just are parts of me and it would seem that they do in fact fit together quite nicely.