Jewish Pride by Ben Freeman

The first book we read was Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People - Ben Freeman. Which is available at Amazon.. We started reading the book in July of 2021 and finished at the end of September 2021.

Chapter 1 Recap:

Chapter 1 discusses the history, origins, and types of antisemitism with examples throughout history to the present day. In our discussion we talked about the odd juxtaposition of antisemitic theories which hold contradictory view points and how we have seen these antisemitic theories play out in our real life interactions.

Books to Watch for:

At the end of book club, we provide a space for people to bring foward books that they've recently become aware of or new releases in Jewish books. This week, highlighted these new books:

From Sarah to Sydney: The Woman Behind All-of-a-Kind Family

Amazon B&N

And major plug for All-of-a-Kind family. Go read them if you haven't!

The Steinsaltz Tanya V3: Sha’ar HaYihud VeHa’emuna and Iggeret HaTeshuva

Koren Press:

Chapter 2 Recap:

This chapter deals with the ways in which society is systemically antisemitic. If chapter 1 discusses the psychology of antisemitism, this chapter focuses more on the sociology of systemic antisemitism historically and to the present time. Our discussion ranged from a variety of antisemitic tropes in society to how that plays out in our indivudual experiences from conflicts between school and Jewish holidays to goblins, trolls and dwarfs as Jewish standins in literature to how some of the most influential media (such as a Star Wars and Harry Potter draw from Christian theology) and how Christian society sets up Judaism as old (and maybe dirty) while Christianity is bright, new, and clean.

Chapter 3 Recap:

This chapter deals with assimilation and aculturation as part of the response to antisemitism in the world. How Jews respond to antisemitism and the world in general is fluid and very personal and we shared some of our stories around how we stand out and stand up for who we are and how we blend in. What we take from the our society and what we reject and what makes us Jewish. We talked a little about the historical perspectives in the book on how assimilation has and (mostly) as not worked as a defence against antisemitism and how society has shown us that assimilation doesn't generally speaking historically improve people's perception of us.

Chapter 5 Recap:

We discussed the way in which our shared experiences (around food, etc) bond us together as a people. We discussed the differences in traditions between Askenazi and other types of Judaism and white passing issues. And how even among ourselves, those difference create unnecessary division instead of bringing us together. We talked about the intersectionality of the Jewish experience as a cultural Jewish woman in Britain based on the experience of Rachel Riley documented in book and the antisemitic bent on the labor party under Corwin.

Chapter 6 and 7 Recap:

We talked about internal discrimination within Israeli and other society towards Mizrachi and Beta Yisroel Jews. We talked about the different historical experiences and journeys that the people in those communities took on their way back to Israel and those experiences shaped who they are. We talked about blending in and standing out. Preesrving your identity and what the cost is is of preserving your Mesorah while also integretating into your society.

Also of interest:

A recent article on Ben Freeman from Jewish Link.

Chapters 8 and 9 Recap:

Elisheva was able to jon us and talk about some of her experiences and the contrast between being Black and Jewish in America and Israel and the challenge of retaining your Jewish identity in the face of a community that doesn't always recognize that it's possible to be both Black and Jewish. We talked about creating inclusive spaces and rejecting on a personal level the idea that Judaism requires confirmity to a certain look, identity or Mesorah.

Also of interest:

Isaac de Castro recommended listening to some Ladino music, and the song, Sien Drahmas Al Dia. I've included a YouTube link to one version,

which is slow enough that you can actually hear the words and very nicely include captioning in both Ladino and English, so you can also understand them.

Elisheva is a fashion designer and this is a link to her website.

Another book that touches on the subject of navigating Jewish spaces as a Black Jewish woman is a personal memior, The Color of Love by Mara B. Gad.

(That's the amazon link.) I read it and loved it and so did my MIL.

Chapter 10 & 11 Recap:

We talked about how progressive spaces feel inclusive in some ways but not others and conversative spaces feel inclusive in some ways but not others and how difficult it can be to gain acceptance for who you are in totality, rather than feeling like spaces just want one part of your identity. We looked at this through the lense of two stories, one about Eliyahu, a trans man whose family was more Hardedi but as a trans man, he found it hard to be accepted there. And we talked about how some of those progressive spaces are unwelcoming to people who are zionists. One of Eliyahu's experiences was that he found it was easier to be accepted as a trans man in the wider community than as a Jew.

Amy who comes from a patrilineal Jewish background and is Asian Jewish American disxussed how hard those two can be reconcile and how much pushback she gets from the community for being her authentic Jewish self. We talked a little about the tendency of the Jewish community to gatekeep to an offputting degree and how much strength and perservance it takes to main your Jewish identity in the face of Jewish opposition.

If you have not read the weekly reading, you are still welcome to join us for the discussion.

Chapter 12 Recap:

We discussed how being Jewish in the world has shaped our experiences and our reactions to the people and events around us.