Sign In Forgot Password

Safe Community for our Mixed Race Daughter

02/09/2023 12:24:44 PM


Guest Blogger, Ashley Holladay


Marrying later in life, Scot and I talked a lot about how we wanted to fill our home with love, charity and faith. We knew forming an interfaith family would bring challenges.  When Daisy became a part of our family, we started thinking of the challenges of finding the right faith community for her. We wanted a community to love and accept people of color, but so much more than just acceptance.  

We are still looking for a perhaps second community where we as white parents will be the minority, and our strong woman of color (five year old daughter) will not. We believe we owe this to Daisy. And additionally we hope it will help us grow to be more aware and sensitive to what we can not see as white parents. Maybe it is not too much to ask that all communities grow in this direction.

The desire to find a Jewish community with a majority of people of color is still hard to imagine in the near future, but why not as soon as possible?

According to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, only one percent of Jews are Black and four percent are Hispanic.  Raising a mixed-race daughter in a Jewish community where she will be in the majority is unlikely today.  Despite the odds, we have found a Jewish community at CBI that loves our daughter for who she is and does not make her feel unwelcome. But we are still working on that something more.

PNG image.jpeg

Scot and I started coming to CBI before the pandemic.  I remember hearing Spanish being spoken among visitors during one of our early CBI visits.  This gave us hope that CBI was not the statistical norm.  At all of our visits, we would leave so warmed by the presence of same sex families, foster families and adoptive families, LGBTQ members, and especially people of color that joined the services.  This gave me hope that we could practice Judaism and still be faithful to our needs for a diverse community. I do not presume to speak for the experience of other congregants of color at CBI, but in our few years as members, we see intentional leadership.

To provide a little understanding of how we got here, let me take a step back. I met my husband, Scot in 2015 after returning from representing detained families at Dilley Detention center, an immigration "family" detention center. I was quite traumatized, and he was an immediately sympathetic ear, and he soon joined me for a march for immigration reform to the capital. The dissatisfaction with injustice was our starting point. Later, there was a march at the capital for women's rights, and he insisted we all go, including his teenage and preteen sons. He wanted them to understand why people were so upset. He did not want them to dismiss the feelings of the marchers. Later during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, we were naturally involved and supportive and dreaming of change in America for our daughter.

To my delight, Daisy started chanting in her toddler dialect "Black Lives Matter" and marching around the house with pretend signs about the same age as when she started to pray the Sh'ma at bedtime.

As her white mom, I do not know all that lies ahead of her as a woman of color, or as a Jew and in addition to her life as a Black and Hispanic Jew in America.  I know she will face discrimination and microaggressions throughout her life, and like any mom, I wish I could shield her from that.  I know that I can at least love her and place her in supportive, loving circles.  I hope she has many loving people, including people of color smarter than me to help her--people who will build her up and help her take on the world with all its flaws, racism and antisemitism.  I hope that the Jewish community at large can be a part of that for her.

Scot and I spend a lot of time thinking about how Daisy will define herself and how to make sure we don't get in her way.  We hope a conversation with Torah and Adonai will be part of the mix.

From the first time we came to a service with Daisy we felt she was loved at CBI for being herself, in all her freedom-loving spiritedness.  As a new mother always second guessing myself, this is a huge blessing.

The more I heard from the D'var Torahs, the more I recognized that being anti-racist was something other people and leaders at CBI also cared about.  I remember hearing Rabbi Folberg say that we should never ask someone who may look different from us or who we might guess did not grow up Jewish to "tell us their story."  I know as a white privileged woman I could have been that person naively asking, and I needed that direct leadership to set the tone for this community to move towards anti-racism. 

It is a wild ride for us, for me, trying to learn how to be a mother and Jewish and be myself, an introvert who nonetheless, in spite of myself, values community.  I know we just can not do this alone and do it right.

We continue to throw ourselves into CBI because of the way you all embrace diversity in the membership. We see love and diverse ways of living and thinking. We know we are not perfect, and accept being part of an imperfect community.  We enjoy seeing new people and introducing them to our family. We see love for everyone and acceptance of others for who they are.

If you have not joined a CBI Erev Shabbat or Shabbat morning service, we recommend joining us. Please come up and say hi- Daisy never met a stranger for long. You will see our lovely daughter running around being herself, and maybe we can get a glimpse of a future of Judaism that is different, diverse, and has a place for us and a lot of self-work to be done.  

Fri, April 19 2024 11 Nisan 5784