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Jewish-Hindu, Jewish-Black and Gabi Giffords

Jewish-Hindu, Jewish-Black and Gabi Giffords

Abigail Pickus, who alas no longer blogs for us, but does do a monthly column on life in Israel, has an interesting piece in e-JewishPhilanthropy about Kesha Ram, a Vermont state legislator who recently went on a Birthright trip to Israel.

With a Jewish American mother and Hindu Indian father, Ram was raised in Los Angeles, in both religions. At 25 (elected at age 23), the University of Vermont grad is one of the youngest state legislators in the country. According to Pickus’ article, Ram opted to visit Israel out of a desire to learn more about her Jewish side:

“I come from a mix of two cultures, of two races, yet I never felt enough of anything,” she admitted.

Having visited India three times, Ram realized that she was losing her Judaism.

“My Jewish side was floundering,” she said. “And without that how could I really understand who I am?”

She sounds like a real rising star, perhaps the next Gabrielle Giffords among Jewish woman of mixed parentage — except let’s pray that she, unlike Giffords (back in the news and recovering remarkably well), is able to avoid homicidal would-be assassins with semi-automatic weapons.

And speaking of biracial Jews (Ram, not Giffords), a Kveller article today about a Ukrainian Jewish émigré woman struggling with her half-black daughter’s difficult-to-manage hair has attracted a lot of comments. The discussion about “My Daughter’s Black-Jewish Hair” ranges from the nature of “black” and “Jewish” identity — was the author marginalizing black Jews by describing “black” and “Jewish” as wholly separate identities? — to lots of excellent hair care suggestions.

My own daughters are half-Ashkenazi and half-French Canadian (with a dash of Irish), and even their hair, which tangles and pouffs out less than my way-too-thick (and prematurely gray) all-Ashkenazi hair, triggers almost daily battles now that they both refuse the scissors and insist on keeping it super long. So I can definitely sympathize with author Alina Sivorinovsky Wickham. I’ve recently taken to braiding my daughters’ hair every night, partly to reduce tangling, partly because it makes them look like Laura Ingalls Wilder and partly because it’s one of those sweet nightly mother-daughter rituals I know they’ll outgrow long before I’m ready.

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