Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Click Here to Visit the College Center

BWW Blog: When You Aren't Deemed 'Jewish Enough' - Being a Jewish POC

Article Pixel

I know what it’s like to be accepted as Jewish. To be celebrated as Jewish... And, from now on, I don’t think I’ll accept anything less. 

BWW Blog: When You Aren't Deemed 'Jewish Enough' - Being a Jewish POC

I've been thinking a lot about my Jewish identity lately. Especially after the holiest holidays happened and I attempted to take some time off to reflect.

Being Jewish is a part of myself that I've known since I was little and started as a wee toddler attending Jewish preschool. All my life, I've been celebrating the holidays and customs, and saying the prayers... And yet, all my life, there have been people who refuse to see me as what I am.

They tell me it's not technically possible since my mother isn't Jewish. People tell me with a look as they scrutinize my features that don't apply to the Westernized version of a Jew.

Very recently, I was on a zoom call with a group of Asian Jews. It was the first time I was surrounded by a multitude of POC Jews, and not only that, but Asian Jews, who shared similar backgrounds to me. It was inspiring, yet at the same time... maddening.

Maddening because so many people wouldn't deem us Jewish enough no matter how connected we feel to our identity.

I flash back to moments I've had in high school and college. In college, when the Jewish center recruits people by going up to those they think look like a "Western Jew". Moments where classmates would slightly crinkle their face in response to my assertion that I am Jewish. And yes, the moment when a kid in elementary school walked right up to me and told me I wasn't really Jewish, which in turn, sparked a whole identity crisis for me.

Technically if you're orthodox, yes, you wouldn't consider me Jewish. But most of the people I know who have said these things to me, weren't orthodox, and I am considered Jewish by the state of Israel when it came to Birthright. So let's ask this question: Why is it so important to some people that I look like a Western Jew? To them, all they could see were my Japanese features, instantly blocking me from a seat at their table.

We need to ask ourselves why there is such an erasure of POC in the Jewish community, and why there is such a cast of whiteness over the Jewish community. If you think of a Jewish person, and immediately think white...why is that?

My connection to my Jewish community has faltered over the years from the lack of support I saw, and I think NYU needs to do better.

BWW Blog: When You Aren't Deemed 'Jewish Enough' - Being a Jewish POCI still have fond memories though, of being in a Jewish community growing up. Going to Chabad, which is an Orthodox temple that focuses on outreach to unaffiliated Jews, with a family that welcomed us with open arms and supported our growth in learning about the religion. I remember closing my eyes as I listened to the harmony of mismatched voices swirl around that tiny temple with joy. I remember going to Birthright in Israel, and despite not feeling accepted at first, not looking like the rest of my group, I eventually made friends that accepted and celebrated me. I remember them cheering me on as I gave a mini "Bat Mitzvah" speech at the

Western Wall, taking pictures of me proudly since I never got to have one. I remember dancing to Fiddler on the Roof in that fancy hotel room with my friend on our last night in Jerusalem. I remember leaning my head against the cool stone of the Western Wall, which millions of people have touched, and I remember praying and feeling loved.

I know what it's like to be accepted as Jewish. To be celebrated as Jewish... And, from now on, I don't think I'll accept anything less.

Because I am a Jew.

Related Articles

From This Author Student Blogger: Alyssa Silver