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There Is More Than One Way to Look and Be Jewish

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I was attending a Woman’s Circle in Crown Heights, a gathering for Jewish women, when someone asked me a version of what I’ll call “the Question.”

“You look very exotic,” she said. “Do Jews in the Philippines look the same as everyone else there?”

I didn’t really know how to respond.

“There’s usually, like a look — you know what I mean?” she repeated. I felt the attention of the room on me. “I didn’t know they had synagogues there,” she said.

“Well, there was Temple Emil…” I began — only because I had been reading a book, “Philippine Sanctuary: A Holocaust Odyssey” by Bonnie M. Harris. Harris writes about how during World War II, the United States government and many Western democracies limited or closed themselves off entirely to the Jewish refugees, while the Philippine Commonwealth provided safe asylum to more than 1,300 German Jews. It mentioned Temple Emil, though it was burned to the ground during the Japanese occupation in 1945.

Thankfully, the program facilitator responded: “Jews come in all different colors and sizes.” Another girl who had an English accent wearing a tichel, or headscarf, added, “Yeah, I’ve seen Jews like her.”

Time again, my fellow Jews need reminders that there are Mizrahi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Black Jews, Asian Jews — basically all kinds. And now, at a time of rising antisemitism, it’s important to highlight the validity of Jewish diversity and to also stand together collectively in........

© The Jewish Week

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