kenyonreview

Discussion of whiteness by some Jewish poets

http://www.kenyonreview.org/2016/07/passing-whiteness-jewish-poets-speak/

Some excerpts:

Eduardo Gabrieloff: Again, my poems cannot be stripped from my background. I write for the 17 year old who felt so lost and alone and turned to poetry, only to struggle to find people like me. So, 17 year old Colombian Syrian Uzbek Jews in Colorado, I’ve got you covered.

Jason Schneiderman: “Whiteness” (as it operates in America) is a conglomeration of privilege. I have white privilege, so I understand myself to be white in the United States. When I was in Russia, I was Jewish, and not white—but that’s a different discursive regime. Privilege is very hard to think about, because it’s systemic—the structure of American society erases the knowledge of privilege from the privileged, so one has to listen and pay close attention to find out how the experience of others is different.

Rosebud Ben-Oni: I remember one class in Hebrew school we had a teacher, who had a reputation for being “liberal,” ask us that very question: Are Jews white? And all the students got very defense and said yes, of course they are. […] And I remember sitting in the corner without saying anything, as if my having a Mexican mother disqualified me, as if I wasn’t allowed to speak in “we.”

Emily Jaeger: As a queer Jew living in a relatively traditional Catholic community in rural Paraguay […] I found that the best way to share my true identity without labels was by sharing the Jewish love for questioning as well as hearing and preserving dissenting opinions.

Erika Meitner: I am white, but my family is multi-racial — my youngest son is African-American…. I know that there are some Jewish environments in which he will never feel comfortable…. But…. Even in our tiny, rural, lay-led Jewish community center, my son is not nearly the only person of color. Which is to say that I resist the lumping together of Jewish communities in this question — those where my family would be stigmatized are no longer my communities.