This session will explore the intersections of race, religion, and Jewish identity in the context of mixed race families in contemporary U.S. society. We will talk about the research we did for our book, JewAsian, in addition to connections we see between this work and current demographic trends.
Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt found that the Jewish Asian families they interviewed expressed their commitments to Jewish life in active, religious ways. What does this research suggest about the nature of Jewish identity? How does this presentation enrich your understanding of race, religion and Jewish identity?
Professor Kim reports that in heterosexual couples, it is the women who do the work of transmitting Jewish identity—whether those women are themselves the Jews in the family or not. What’s your response to this observation? How does it align with your own experience or observations of Jewish life?
After describing how the young people they spoke to reported perpetual experiences of microaggressions, othering and racism in Jewish spaces, the lecturers close with the hopeful message that the organized Jewish community is now confronting racism in ways it was not when they began their research. Have you observed or experienced any changes in how Jewish communities and organizations honor the diversity of Jewish identities? Can you think of concrete steps you can take to address the persistence of racism in Jewish spaces?
This is the third presentation in our unit on diversity within the Jewish community. What points of connection do you see among the various Jews we have learned about: Latino Jews today, Ethiopian Hebrew in the mid-twentieth century, and Jewish Asian families? What are some differences in the ways these groups relate to the intersection of their Jewishness with their other identities? How does centering on the experiences of Jews who are not white change your conception of the relationship between Jewishness and whiteness?
In their presentation, Drs. Kim and Leavitt highlight the important work of Be’chol Lashon. Learn more about this organization here.
Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt
Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt are co-authors of JewAsian: Race, Religion and Identity for America’s Newest Jews (University of Nebraska Press, 2016). Helen is Professor of Sociology at Whitman College and currently serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Noah is a Research Associate of Sociology at Whitman College and currently serves as the Director of Student Engagement.