It can be really hard to be a person of color in a predominantly White space on a good day but for some reason, when that space is Jewish, it can be even more difficult. Perhaps it is because when we are in our spiritual homes, we have the expectation of emotional safety. 

There are spaces where we are supposed to leave feeling replenished, but for so many of us, there are also spaces where we have experiences that take us out of our kavanah (purpose, intent). Feeling like one has to be on guard takes away from one’s spiritual experience to the point where many of us make the devastating decision that it is easier to separate from our communities than hold our breath whenever we walk through the door. 

The emotional labor required to initiate a repair request is unfair and, with the racial demographics so skewed, seemingly impossible. Being a leader in one’s community can be even harder, because when those hurts happen, there is often little recourse. Our desire for repair can trigger the Rules of Engagement (from White Fragility) and often makes situations worse, particularly when the community hasn’t done the race consciousness work necessary to recognize the hurt and doesn’t have the tools to heal the harm.

Being a Jew of Color

Over the past 18 years in my own community, I have had many moments where I have come close to making the decision to leave. When harm happens, it makes me wonder why I spend so much time and energy to stay. 

It is a value of mine to be an active part of my Jewish community. I didn’t want to merely be a service participant, I wanted to lead. Over the years my leadership has taken many forms. I am currently the President of the Board of my synagogue and am member of the Board of a large Jewish organization, on a committee of a legacy organization, have roles at several others and have even started my own. 

Experiences that I’ve had along the way led me to rabbinical school and I’m proud to be just a few months away from ordination. The Jewish “street cred” doesn’t protect me from those moments and, if I’m being honest, it almost feels more defeating. 

I have put decades of energy and emotional labor into my communities, but it only takes the actions of one person to make me want to shrink away.  As I write this, I find myself in one of those moments and I’m wondering whether or not it’s time to let go of the boulder I’ve been pushing up this hill. 

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The Associated Contributors

The Associated Contributors are writers from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.