If you want a different constituency, try a different paradigm

by Loolwa Khazzoom • May 26, 2010 • Jewish Multicultural Corner

I spoke with a rabbi today about Jewish multiculturalism, from a personal perspective — ie, me essentially being a homeless Jew, what with my feminist sensibilites and hard-core Middle Eastern Jewish identity and practice. The rabbi made a few comments that I have encountered repeatedly before. I wanted to share my thoughts on one of them:

The rabbi addressed the issue of the synagogue being predominantly Ashkenazi, and therefore, catering to an Ashkenazi audience (which in itself is a loaded comment, but I’ll save that for another time). “It just happened that way,” the rabbi said. “We didn’t intend to bring in any specific group.”

Right. But when the point of reference is white European, that’s who you are going to attract. (Well, that plus the assimilated or resigned non-white, non-European types.) It’s simple math. If you want to attract a different demographic, you have to change your way of thinking about, talking about, and practicing Jewish identity, history, cultural norms, and religious traditions.

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Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

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