Insights into Jewish Liberation

Cherie Brown1 came to our Region2 in New York City (USA) to lead a Jewish liberation workshop. She described it as three workshops: (1) a Jewish liberation workshop for Jews, (2) an allies-to-Jews workshop, led by Fela Barclift,3 and (3) a Jewish liberation workshop for everyone (we had two classes in which we all met together).

Here are some of my insights from the workshop:

• Taking on4 Jewish practice: Cherie said that when she first became International Liberation Reference Person for Jews, she thought that re-emerging from the Jewish identity was like re-emerging from any other identity: “claim it, clean it up, and discard it.” However, she noticed over time that RC Jews who embraced Jewish practice seemed to be re-emerging faster than Jews who did not. Anti-Jewish oppression makes us think that we are safer if we assimilate. Adding Jewish content to our lives contradicts that part of the oppression and can be important to our re-emergence. She said, “Imagine that you live a fully Jewish life. What would you do?”

• Assimilation: We get targeted as Jews whether we assimilate or not. If we assimilate and don’t pass on Jewish traditions, then only the distresses get passed on to the next generations. It’s crucially important to discharge our hurts from anti-Jewish oppression. However, if that’s all we do when we take on5 Jewish liberation, something fundamental will be missing.

• Jews of the global majority: Three Jews of the global majority spoke in a panel. As a Mizrahi Jew,6 I was one of them. The Ashkenazi Jews7 were surprised to hear that Mizrahi Jews have practices, melodies, and so on, that differ from those of Ashkenazi Jews and that Jews of the global majority are the majority of Jews in the world. In the United States, Ashkenazi Jewish culture dominates; other Jewish cultures are not known as well or celebrated as often.

• Having myself, as a Mizrahi Jewish woman: Following theOctober 2011 Jewish Liberation Conference in London (England), the global-majority Jews who attended had conference calls every few months with Cherie. It wasn’t until those calls that I realized how hungry I was for contact with other Jews targeted by racism—how I wanted to hear their stories, hear about their families and what their lives were like. I realized how hard it was to grow up in the United States, where white Ashkenazi culture is assumed to represent all Jewish culture. I now understand why I had so many feelings about Yiddish8: my culture and my people had been hidden, squashed, and forgotten. The conference calls and the panel at the workshop helped me to have myself as a Mizrahi Jewish woman, as well as appreciate and love Ashkenazi Jewish culture much more than before.

Sharon Wolf
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of Jews 

1 Cherie Brown is the International Liberation Reference Person for Jews.
2 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of  several Areas (local RC Communities).
3 Fela Barclift is the Area Reference Person for the Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant Area in  New York City, New York, USA.
4 In this context, “taking on” means adopting.
5 In this context, “take on” means undertake.
6 Mizrahi Jews are descendants of Jews from the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. They often identify as people targeted by racism.
7 Ashkenazi Jews are Jews of European decent, who generally identify as white.
8 Yiddish is a High German language, written in Hebrew characters, that is spoken by Jews of Central and Eastern European descent.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00