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Jewesses with Attitude

A Look at "How Jews Look" and "The Colors of Water"

A few weeks ago, MyJewishLearning.com released "How Jews Look", a four-and-a-half minute film profiling a few Jews reflecting upon their own appearances in connection with their Jewish identities. A lively and somewhat heated conversation about "How Jews Look" emerged on Jewschool. I can't say that I was so impressed by this short film, mostly because I would have expected more diversity, and perhaps more insight, to be reflected among the interviewees.

There's more to "how Jews look" than just religious and culturally-identified Ashkenazim, and one Sephardic Jew. Right? Jews of color (unless you count Sarah Aroeste, the Ladino rock star of Greek descent) were not represented in this film. Unfortunate. I'm sure Loolwa Khazzoom has a lot to say about this. And Yavilah McCoy, too. McCoy is an Orthodox African-American Jew from Brooklyn. She's a writer, educator, and founder of Ayecha, a nonprofit organization that, until recently closing its doors, provided training and educational resources to build greater sensitivity toward diversity in the Jewish community. This coming Sunday, March 22, McCoy is taking the stage in Boston for the premier of "The Colors of Water: An African-American Jewish Journey."

Produced by Mayyim Hayyim: Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center, and written by Anita Diamant, Janet Buchwald, and Yavilah McCoy, "The Colors of Water" shares the unique musical history of four generations of McCoy's family who found a home in Judaism through spirit and song. On the stage, McCoy will integrate the rich culture of both Black and Jewish people, combining her family's gospel singing tradition with classical Jewish liturgy. For more information about "The Colors of Water," and to purchase tickets, visit Mayyim Hayyim's events page.

I'm glad that McCoy is telling her story to expand the ways we think about Jewish experience, identity formation, and "how Jews look." We need more of this! And what better time to have it than during Women's History Month?

 

2 Comments

it's not up to anyone but Sarah Aroeste to decide whether she "counts." Many folks with similar background in the Sephardic diaspora do identify as JOC. Absolutely. Thank for your comment, yrl. You're totally right about this, and my intention was not to police how anyone self-identifies. I was only trying to point out that "Jews of Color" is a much broader category than what is represented in the video (which I didn't do as effectively as I could have). I did wonder, as you write, "Whether [Aroeste] is used as a nonthreatening token." Many thanks, again, for your comment! :)

Jordan

Thanks for putting the video in context. I just have a small critique: unless you count Sarah Aroeste, the Ladino rock star of Greek descent This smells of identity policing to me - it's not up to anyone but Sarah Aroeste to decide whether she "counts." Many folks with similar background in the Sephardic diaspora do identify as JOC. Whether she's used as a nonthreatening token is a good question but I think can be asked in a more respectful way. Thanks again for the post.

Yavilah McCoy
Full image
Yavilah McCoy.
Courtesy of Tom Kates.

How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "A Look at "How Jews Look" and "The Colors of Water"." 17 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 25, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/colors-of-water>.

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