The Colors of Jews

The Colors of Jews

Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism
Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz
Distribution: World
Publication date: 5/22/2007
ISBN: 978-0-253-11679-6
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Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz exposes and challenges the common assumptions about whom and what Jews are, by presenting in their own voices, Jews of color from the Iberian Peninsula, Asia, Africa, and India. Drawing from her earlier work on Jews and whiteness, Kaye/Kantrowitz delves into the largely uncharted territory of Jews of color and argues that Jews are an increasingly multiracial people—a fact that, if acknowledged and embraced, could foster cross-race solidarity to help combat racism. This engaging and eye-opening book examines the historical and contemporary views on Jews and whiteness as well as the complexities of African/Jewish relations, the racial mix and disparate voices of the Jewish community, contemporary Jewish anti-racist and multicultural models, and the diasporic state of Jewish life in the United States.

Author Bio

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz is Adjunct Professor in Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies at Queens College of CUNY and has taught in the Bard Women's Prison Initiative. She is a feminist scholar and poet whose many books include The Issue Is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence and Resistance; My Jewish Face & Other Stories; and The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology (with Irena Klepfisz). She lives in Elmhurst, New York.


"In the aftermath of 9/11 and the volatile politics of the Middle East, this carefully researched and compelling study is timely and sure to provoke debate in various circles. It is an important contribution to our understanding of the Jewish diaspora and contemporary race relations writ large." —Beverly Guy Sheftal, co-author (with Johnnetta Betsch Cole) of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities

"Kaye/Kantrowitz is a courageous activist and thinker and her invigorating, illuminating book does what all great political writing should do—it refreshes your mind and spirit by effectively discombobulating habitual complacencies, and re-acquaints you with the world." —Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize-winning , author of Angels in America

"Every once in a while a book comes along and smacks you in the face with its wisdom, intelligence, and compassionate politics. The Colors of Jews is such a book. Its documentation of radical, anti-racist Jewish history, its unwavering commitment to the practice of solidarity across deeply divisive borders, and its elegant interweaving of personal, communal, activist and scholarly voices in mapping a complex and visionary landscape of struggle make this an invaluable book for our time." —Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Professor of Women's Studies Syracuse University , author of Feminism Without Borders, Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity

"Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz has long been an astute interpreter of Jewish culture and politics. Her new study The Colors of Jews is fascinating and provocative, filled with original insights. It will both inspire and challenge its readers to think more deeply and act more forcefully." —Susannah Heschel, author of Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus

"The activist intellectual Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz has written a mind—stretching, moving and pragmatic book..This is a book of hope, based on experience. It deserves wide circulation and serious discussion." —Adrienne Rich is the prize winning author of many books of poetry and essays

"Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz is among our most creative, provocative and courageous thinkers and writers..In
The Colors of Jews, she once again upsets our applecart of easy assumptions and expectations, challenging us to go beyond the usual lines that limit and divide us." —Si Kahn, Executive Director, Grassroots Leadership

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Table of Contents

A Note on Language

1. Are Jews White?
What's White
The People of Contradictions
Apartheid/American Style
Jews: Race or Religion?
Christian Centricity
2. Black/Jewish Imaginary and Real
Real 1: The Black/Jewish Tangle
Real 2: Am I Possible?
Imaginary 1: Exodus
Imaginary 2: Media Coverage
Imaginary 3: Media Hype
Real 3: Solidarity
Real 4: Nationalism and Feminism
3. Who Is This Stranger?
The Cultures of Jews
Post-Colonial Jews
Feminist Ritual
U.S. Jews
4. Praying with Our Legs
Fighting Slumlords, Building Coalitions: Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (Chicago)
Confronting Power in the Jewish Community: Jews United for Justice (St. Louis)
Trying to Change Congregational Life: Jewish Community Action (Minneapolis)
Bringing Our Bodies to the Picket Line: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (New York)
The Place to Go for a Progressive Jewish Voice
5. Judaism Is the Color of This Room
The Temple of My Familiar: Ayecha (National)
Crossing Many Borders: Ivri-NASAWI/Levantine Center (International)
A Mixed Multitude: Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation (Chicago)
Respect and Knowledge: Beta Israel of North America (International)
Hospitality Is the First Principle: Congregation Naharat Shalom (Albuquerque)
Jews Were All People of Color: Center for Afro-Jewish Studies (Philadelphia)
I Promised Them It Wasn't Going to Happen Again: Central Reform Synagogue (St. Louis)
Jews of Color Speak Out
Transformation in Partnership
6. Toward a New Diasporism
If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem
If I Forget Thee O Doikayt, O Haviva Ottomania
Diasporism and the Holocaust
Israel and Diasporism
Anti-Semitism and Diasporism
A Jewish Tradition: Radical Justice-Seeking
To Change the Way Racism Is Fought: Shifting the Center
Diasporism and the Colors of Jews