Jewish About Me by Adena Walker
by Faith / BKLYN
Growing up mixed, it was hard to know where I fit in. I remember going to school and the other kids saying I was adopted, then my mom reassuring me I was not when I got home. My mother is an Ashkenazi Jew from a conservative home in Boston. However, she was more liberal than her parents. My father was and African American man born in the south to a single mother who soon after moved to New Jersey. Both my parents were very into education. Education is a value that to me has always been Jewish to me because of the idea of being, “people of the book.” My dad always said on repeat, “Jews never persecuted black people or enforced others into their beliefs.” Do to his strong beliefs even being not Jewish he participated in holidays, built sukkahs, picked me up from Hebrew school, and called me Adenaleh. I say all of this because growing up in a majority white town I did not know how to accept my blackness. METCO a system set up to bus inner city kids in Boston to wealthy towns that was largely black always made me feel like an outsider. However, when I attended Hebrew school I was the only student of color and I did not feel uncomfortable. I knew no matter if I was black or white I was always Jewish. That was something no one could deny or debate with me. Then when I left Hebrew school and went on to Prozdor Hebrew High school I was never happier. Seeing and meeting all kinds of Jews. Black Jews, Asian Jews, and Iranian Jews my world opened wide.
In addition to Prozdor I was going to Jewish overnight camps and attending USY. I even picked the college I attended based on the fact they had a Hillel! In college my dad converted to Judaism and I was so proud and it was cool to feel completed on both sides. Then a month after my college graduation my dad passed away. It was a difficult time for me and I moved home, and I hadn’t reached out to any of my typical Jewish communities. I was frozen. I moved to Crown Heights the following year and a friend told me about Moishe House. I started to attend events and notice the strong Chassidic presence in my neighborhood. I felt like myself again. Like this void had been filled. I even got this chai phone case, to show the outside world how proud I was to be Jewish. One night on an awful train a Chassidic woman who noticed my case decided to get a cab with me, based on my phone and the fact I was Jewish. In cab she said,” oh you couldn’t wait for the train and be late for your date. A single Jewish guy, you need to make it there.” We both laughed, and had made an instant connection, race was not a factor.
There is so much beauty in Judaism. The people, the culture, and the love and idea of oneness are an ongoing theme for the Jewish people. While I still attend Moishe House events, I was so happy Jon and Faith reached out to me on that 4 th of July. Learning about parshas has made me feel like I’m back at Prozdor learning about Jewish ethics, laws, and the Jewish spirit. I have even hosted Shabbat dinners! Also the abundant amount of warmth shown by both Jon and Faith has made me bring more people to Base. Regardless of the specific name of the group I frequent the common thread is community. I love belonging to a tribe that opens up to me and allows me to flourish in my life and gain knowledge of this rich culture and religion.
Adena Walker is a singer, actor, podcaster, who has performed on stage and screen. You can find her work on YouTube and soundcloud.