Jewishness is often associated with whiteness. Statistically speaking, this association makes sense, seeing as over 99 percent of American Jews are identified as white. This was not the case half a century ago when Jews were being barred from universities and “white” required the addendum of “Anglo-Saxon Protestant.”
Judaism is a culture for some. It is a religion for all who identify as Jews. Judaism is not – in my opinion (and many disagree with me) – a race. When Judaism is confined to a race, especially when that race is white, many Jews are excluded and discriminated against. Judaism is an aspect of one’s identity – a choice rather than a racial obligation. When individuals are told they have to “look Jewish” to “be Jewish,” they lose the chance to claim their own identity.
In American Jewry, this is especially pertinent concerning trans-racial adoption. Avery Klein-Cloud, an African American Jew, co-wrote Off and Running, a documentary of her search for personal identity that opens today in Manhattan.
All Avery understands, by her own admission, is how to be white and Jewish. Raised in an observant household in Brooklyn by Tova Klein and Travis Cloud, a lesbian couple with two other adopted, nonwhite children, Avery is a gifted athlete and a loving sister. But when she reaches out to her birth mother in Texas, her need to connect with the past jeopardizes her future and distances her from the only family she has ever known.
I will definitely be seeing this documentary, seeing as a text that depicts “the complexities of transracial adoption without forcing [the] film into a predetermined, inspirational box” is crucial to the development of Jewish identity and acceptance.
And how is this a Jewish feminist issue?, you might ask. Adoption is a manifestation of reproductive choice. Reproductive choice is a feminist issue. This film is a manifestation of women in the movie industry, which is a feat seeing as – according to WAM – only 15 percent of movie producers, writers, and directors are women. This documentary is written, directed, and produced 100% by women!
Last, but most definitely not least, this is a coming of age story about choice, identity, and equality. I’d say Jewish feminism is totally behind that.