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tv   Mosaic  CBS  October 25, 2015 5:00am-5:31am PDT

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good morning. and welcome to mow say i can. i'm rabbi eric weiss man. this morning we're about to have an amazing conversation about race in the jewish community. we'd like you to become a part of this conversation. elana is a public a p affairs consultant. and rabbi jk jack si is the senior rabbi in oakland. >> let's jump in and ask you, what are your experiences in the jewish community? >> for the most part, my experiences have been very
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positive. which is why i find myself as a leader in the community now. i'm buy racial and that wo pose a challenge -- would pose a challenge at times. people would question why we were there and even say are you sure you're jewish, which would be difficult at times. >> yes. >> and my experience was both wonderful and also complicated and challenging. i grew up here in san francisco and went to synagogue and just one of a few kids who are not white or recognized as white in the community. i had a rich experience growing up with jewish values and practices in the jewish community and people wondering when i was adopted, when i became jewish, when i learned the prayers rather than assuming that i was a natural part of the fabric of the jewish community. >> so we have in our jewish
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community and culture, this tremendous respect for what we think of as text life. we value words, play with words, we like to think about what do words mean, what are new words to event and breathe into the culture. can you reflect on the way we view the language, bi racial, are you really jewish and different ways our language tells us about this issue in our jewish community. >> i think a first thought that comes to mind is we -- i have often experienced -- and this conversation is specific to the united states in terms of the dynamics around race that we're discussing. the way i think about language, rab bis, jewish leaders talk about our affinity for the other and our care in community on
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behalf of the other. when we talk about race, we often talk about people of color as the other, there by not assuming there are people of color inside the jewish community. so the first pink or red flag around language is talking about race as if people of color are the other rather than an integral based part of the u.s. jewish culture. >> that's a really important point. so often we think of jews as being connected to other parts of the world, which is why jews perhaps don't all look the same. but it's an american fe phenomenon, jews who are bi racial or not white or don't identify as white because of the unique context here in the united states. we do find that it is a part of who we are. it isn't a matter of welcoming somebody suddenly coming from the outside into the community. >> that's hard because it also -- the dynamic of being able to talk about people of color as the other gives us a way that we in the u.s. have framed our
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jewish narrative. it's integral to how we talk about passover. we talk about how we were once slaves too and just that frame presupposes that people of color, african americans, aren't part of that slavery story. so we also rely on this language to create our narrative of how we talk about ourselves as jews in the united states. >> there is a term that people use, intersection alt, which is in some ways modern and some ways clumsy. it looks at weaving together maybe the uniquely american realities, how we talk about race in our country and how we talk about culture. so does that help us in terms of saying really the other is us and we are the other. so there is a porousness in
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which we are basically in some ways pushing at that narrative, and demanding inclusion in a way that may or may not be assumed. >> i think that's true. i think it requires a lot of patience on everyone's side. i think to be open is one of the most important pieces for us as a jewish community is for everybody to be open with what the possibilities are and for people to be in that space where they say we are the other begins on opening to that conversation to when we thought someone was a stranger and they're not. it's important for us all to be open and reflective about how he understand what makes us jewish and what can make maybe else jewish at the same time. >> please join us in just a moment as we continue this wonderful conversation here on mosaic.
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. welcome back. we're in the middle of a wonderful conversation about race in the jewish community. we're talking with jackie and ilana from the san francisco jewish community relations council. welcome back. we were talking about in the jew herb community, the function of otherness and how that notion comes out of our story of theology, specifically over the passover holiday and how that functions. it seems natural to ask them what about being white? what about whiteness? what about that aspect of our culture, of the way that functions racially in you and your lives and your families. i know that's just a big topic
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and a big way of asking the question, but i think for folks who are familiar with the conversation of race in any safe community, this is just part and parcel of the conversation, something that some people maybe may not be familiar with. having said that, what about whiteness in all of this? >> i was thinking in the last segment when we were talking about intersection ality, one of the things that's nice, in a racial context, we're often pushed to pick one side or another. for those who have two white parents, when they're parents arrived to this country, they were not labeled as white, they were labeled as people of color ethnicity. jews were marginal eyeded because of ethnic backgrounds. in a modern dynamic where we have to talk about race, i understand that lots of jews who
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are white feel pushed to abandon ethnic identity and jump into a kind of whiteness that doesn't resonate with them. >> it's interesting that you say that because you're referring of jews of eastern european origin. >> right. >> let's say with we jews, we come out of a place in which prejudice was based on religion and ethnicity to a country to say that prejudice has roots in skin color. >> right. >> and so even though internally we would never identify as anything but jewish and that experience of prejudice, we come to a country that from the outside sees us as white and gives us a kind of prumgs of access to society based on the color of our skin without really regard to how we feel internally. >> that's right. >> and we succeed, in part
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because of that. >> right. >> i think actually looking at that jewish white privilege in a jewish context can give us a really are interesting perspective when we look at what that means outside the jewish community. we both talk about being challenged. you walk into a jewish space and you're challenged, often if you don't look white, as to whether or not you really belong there. jews who do look white or however people understand that, aren't challengeded. that's privilege -- challenged.. you are not being asked to explain yourself or give a legitimate reason why you should be there. within a jewish context, because it's about belonging and because it's about when you walk into a jewish space, you want to feel that kind of embrace that the hope the jewish community will give you, it gives i think a really interesting perspective on what that distance means. if you're white, you have the benefit of the doubt. that's what privilege is. if you're not, you're asked to
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explain yourself. when we take that into the greater community when we talk about issues of justice and equality, we can see how that plays out in the bigger picture as well. >> to add to the conversation, both of your leaders in the jewish community, you're a rabbi and you are director of civic engagement and public affairs for a premier jewish relations council, agency, so people come to you for your leader shep and ex per -- leadership and expertise in the broadness of the jewish community. again it's kind of a big question, but does this issue play out? there are certainly subtle tease, if you're gay, lesbian, if you're a woman, all of these things have subtle tease, but how do they not count when
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people come to you as a rabbi for a lifecycle event or how to deal with an issue in the community? >> sure. it plays on all kinds of levels and layers. i want to say that i choose to be in this role. it is a real privilege to be a jewish community leaders. with that i choose all of the complications that come with the intersection of my racial identity and working in a main stream jewish environment. almost every day people take a second look at me when they relate it to my name. i have a very traditional jewish name and people don't expect me to be white. sometimes i walk into a racist event unfolding with language, graphic imagery, maybe even the site of the synagogue that i'm visiting and working in on a consultation, and i have to grapple with how i can be a leader and educator, someone who can advance the conversation in a way that holds the community
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together and still have authentic feelings about it and process it as i person of color, a black person. i need to be able to do that all at once. but the other thing is because of my background as a person of color who is jewish working in the jewish community, it gives me vantage points and port al's into community connections that maybe p people with my experience can uniquely make on behalf of our larger community building activities. on one hand there might be racist things that happen, but the other thing there are nothing but opportunities to build bridges and connections and advance not only the jewish community, but all communities working together as allies. >> i think there is also something interesting about the fact that we grew up within the jewish community and both being people that do not identify as white or not only white. we've had to really take a good look at our identities and who we are and what makes us jewish. i think that also puts us in a
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unique place as leaders as well. >> i was going to say also brings an extraordinarily richness, an extraordinary richness to actually developing jewish identity in a greater authenticity for people who might struggle in it in that way. we're going to take a quick break and actually say goodbye to ilana and welcome another guest in a moment. but rabbi jackie will be staying with us. we thank you for staying with us and invite you to return to us at mosaic in just a moment.
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. welcome back to mosaic. i'm rabbi eric weiss. we're in a wonderful conversation about race in the jewish community. joining us with rabbi jackie is diane tobin who is the founder and executive director of a community here in jewish. it means in every torng. tongue. and it's an organization that advocates for racial and ethnic diversity in the jewish community. welcome, diane. >> thank you. >> let me ask you, what are your experiences in the jewish community? >> yes. just saying i adopted a child 18 years ago, and i, like many people, you talk about white privilege, many people are not aware of race.
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it's not part of their lives. so our life became very much -- i didn't know any black jews. we did a study of the research student in the jewish community and the american jewish community to understand who was around, what did that world look like. so now really the whole thing was born in 2000. 15 years later, we provide a space for -- there are a lot of people, jews, normal jews and jews of color, all kinds of jews, who are making different choices in life. this is a world in which people are very open. internet and social media and social networks allow us to make all kinds of choices about our identity in life. people are choosing when you talk about multiple identities, p people are choosing to be jewish and be a part of your synagogue and also be a lot of different thins. it's really creating that space -- and i do a little bit what you do is i meet people where they are. people come from all different
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spaces. >> so when you say people are making different choices, do you -- can you comment a little bit on sort of the jewish context, the degree to which people take their jewishness to this other place, other community, other experience, if that makes sense to you? >> well, i mean, you know, as we touched on earlier, we came to the united states as a persecuted minority fighting for our lives. this is the way in which we succeeded, was to fit in with the other european americans. and -- which is interesting to think about, that it's only been like that since after world war ii. karen distinctly outlines in other book because of the gi bill providing affirmative action for european males. so we at that moment we became american and had that opportunity.
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so, you know, i don't think that was a mistake. that was -- it was what was the and no need to rewrite history. we're at a moment in time now where the americans are becoming more diverse. the group of the -- the youth group of of the country is multi racial. whites will be a minority as of 2042, supposedly. we have a moment as a jewish community, we think who we are and how we got here and how we want to move forward. jews are a multi cultural p people. we live all over the world. because of immigration from eastern europe, it doesn't resonate like that in the american community, but the reality is we're a global world and we are global people. >> so we are after cans and eetsdz oep yanz and worldwide in
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this way. so it's kind of funneled, that global reality to sort of american life, can you comment, both of you, on the experience of when you're jewish and you go into the chinese community, your experience with your son. when you're jewish and go into the african-american community? how does an ieidentity in someplace dominate? how do you take what the core of who you are into that community? how does that function? >> i think you take the core of who you are with you all the time. you're always everything that you are. and i think, you know, for a lot of people, it isn't a choice in that kind of way. it kind of exists naturally side by side in a way that meldz. when i go into the chinese community, i am jewish. i take that aspect of me,
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perhaps the symbols or cultural experiences or things like that that i encounter. those spark those specific kinds of reactions within me. but in the end those are obviously going to be informed by my greater experiences as a jew as well. just like my experience as a jew is informed by the fact that i'm chinese and what that means as well. >> i think ideally it exists in a more holistic kind of way. i think it enables us to understand and be able to relate in a much broader kind of a way all the time. >> diane, your comment makes me think, do we subtly force america a parsing of identity that isn't actually humanly accurate? >> i think people are projecting their own experience. i think we're finding the rate
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greater etsdz nis tease and who we are as americans, i think the more we continue to do that and experience that, the less we are going to force one or the other. >> thank you. we're going to take a quick break and join us in just a moment when we come back here to mosaic.
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. welcome back to mosaic. i'm rabbi eric weiss, honored to be your host. we're in the middle of a great conversation with diane tobin, the founder and executive director of a hebrew term that means every tongue. and rabbi jackie who is senior rabbi at temple sinai. we were in the middle of this conversation about how notions of understanding are experienced in the jewish community and you were going to add to that. >> jackie made a good point on
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break that if you have diversity within your family, that that changes the whole character of the family. for me, i mean, i grew up -- didn't even grow up jewish. for me it was coming inside the jewish community and suddenly have an african-american son, rocked my world forever. my world is completely different. and i think for -- and i feel so lucky to have that world view and it's made my life so much richer and meaningful. i feel empathetic for people -- we may accuse people of being racist or having white privilege, but the reality is most people don't have the experience, don't have the exposure and we work as an organization to provide that to them, to have the conversations. i think people overall just are -- they just don't think about it. we had a film come out this
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year, a little white lie, it's on netflix, it really hits that subject. some people just don't think about it. >> so believe it or not, we're about to come to the end of our time together and really it's just a comma in this bigger, grander conversation that's been happening for many, many, many, many, many years in our community and in the country at large. but it seems to me just to ask maybe for your final reflections, it seems to me that with all the ways in which, let's just say when something like this happens in your family, suddenly you have a different reality, let's say, that it takes a tremendous amount of love to really get to what the core is of a person and a human being. and i just wonder if in a minute you have a comment sort of on that level of the experience for your seflz. rabbi. >> yeah. i think it's a t lot of love, a
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lot of understanding and openness. i think we're at a really exciting time. the race piece is just one aspect of what it means to be creating an american jewish experience and i think that's a really exciting place that we are. this mixing of families ask races, all those things, it means we're becoming a unique experience in the history of jews. and that's exciting. >> and i tk across the whole jewish people, people are choosing to be jewish and maybe they're not expressions that we might recognize, about but they're choosing. 94% of people feel proud of being jewish. >> thank you so much, diane and rabbi jackie. i don't want to cut us off, but i want us to have a moment to say thank you so much for joining us on mosaic. and please join this conversation in your lives. thank you so much for being with us this morning. [ end of realtime captioning ]
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