Watch: Jewish Women of Color in Their Own Words

March 20, 2023

Watch: Jewish Women of Color in Their Own Words

Delving deeper into a story in the March/April 2023 issue of Hadassah Magazine, Executive Editor Lisa Hostein moderated a lively virtual discussion that explored issues of identity and belonging that have motivated a growing number of Jewish women of color to write about their experiences.

The event, "Jewish Women of Color in Their Own Words," the latest offering in the Hadassah Magazine Discussion series, featured panelists Samira K. Mehta, a professor of women and gender studies as well as Jewish studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of The Racism of People Who Love You; Celeste Headlee, a Black and Jewish award-winning journalist, radio host and author of Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racismand How to Do It; and Emily Bowen Cohen, a Jewish Native-American artist and writer whose graphic novel for children, Two Tribes, will be published later this year.

In the incredibly personal conversation, the authors revealed memorable and sometimes painful childhood experiences as Jews of color in predominantly white spaces. Bowen Cohen recounted the racism she faced in Hebrew school, where classmates would question her dark skin. Mehta shared a similar “schoolyard taunt” of being asked why her skin was “dirty.”

Giving candid, practical advice on helping Jews of color feel comfortable in Jewish spaces, Headlee asserted that there’s no reason to fear the racism that lives in all of us. “If you haven’t said something at least borderline offensive in your life, you will,” the NPR radio host told the several hundred participants watching the panel over Zoom. “We can let this go and understand that we are all works in progress.”