“We come in a huge variety of appearances, geographic origins, socioeconomic backgrounds, racial and ethnic backgrounds. It’s the same conversation about intersectionality that we have about everything else. But I think sometimes that gets forgotten because they think that sometimes people just have an imagined prototype of what a Jew is or who a Jew is. I think that’s what important to hold onto, because I think sometimes in the whole, it’s never a productive game to play the oppression Olympics.” — Rabbi Rose
In this episode of Stories from the Field, dive into Jewish identity with Rabbi Rose and Joshuan Newman. Together they share their thoughts, debunk myths and give advice to the future generations on making an impact. We learn about what it means to be a true ally in times of uncertainty and what companies can do to foster a more inclusive work environment. Finally, they share their parting request for inclusion champions and practitioners in the world. Make sure to tune in as we dive deep into the common misconceptions and exploring the significance of allyship within the Jewish community.
Learning Highlights from this Episode:
- Debunking the common misconceptions surrounding the Jewish community.
- Being a good ally, especially in times of uncertainty.
- What companies can do better for their Jewish employees.
- Advice for the younger generation about their impact on eachother and the world.
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About Rabbi Paula Rose
Rabbi Paula Rose is the associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle, where she works to help children, teens, and adults to deepen their connections to Jewish tradition, to the Divine, to each other, to the world around us. Rabbi Rose moved to Seattle from New York City, where she earned a Master of the Arts in Talmud and rabbinic ordination in May 2017. While studying, she worked in a wide array of rabbinic fields: on college campuses, at summer camps, and as a hospital chaplain, but she fell in love with the varied nature, intergenerationality, and potential for relationship building in congregational life. In her spare time, Rabbi Rose loves reading, being near water, listening to podcasts, and hanging out at the park with her husband and young kids.
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Oana Amaria: Alrighty. Rabbi Rose and Joshua, thank you so much for joining this conversation. As we shared earlier, we’re super excited just to be able to have this discussion.
I always think it’s weird to introduce other people, so Rabbi Rose, I want to ask you just to share a little bit about yourself and introduce yourself to our audience. Then Joshua, I’ll ask you to do the same, so welcome.
Rabbi Paula Rose: Okay, thanks. My name is Rabbi Paula Rose, I use she/her pronouns. I am the associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom, which is in the north end of Seattle. I’ve been at Beth Shalom and here in Seattle for a little bit more than about six years now. I spend a lot of time working especially with young people, kids of all ages from babies through teens, but also certainly with the adults in our community as well, doing a lot of teaching and things like that.
But also a lot of thinking and working around how we can make Beth Shalom as warm and welcoming and inclusive of a community as possible, and really be a place that celebrates the diversity that we have. Also, I do a lot of supporting of people in our community, as they navigate what it is to be a Jewish person out in the world. How they bring their Jewish identity and their Jewish life beyond the walls of our synagogue building with them wherever they go.
Oana Amaria: Thank you so much. Joshua?
Joshua Newman: Hey, good morning. Thank you for having me. I’m really happy to be here and joining you guys for this conversation. My name’s Joshua Newman. I am a dad of four kids, I’m an engineer, I’m a former collegiate swimmer. I grew up in Southern California, Nevada. I have been in Seattle since 1999. I’ve been at Beth Shalom for about the last 15 or 16 years. Let me just say that it is absolutely wonderful to have had you at Beth Shalom, Rabbi Rose, so I’m glad you’re still here.
As an engineer, I’ve been at Boeing for almost 17 years, and worked as an engineer in the outdoor apparel industry in Seattle before that, as well as at a preschool for a little while immediately after college. Various, odd jobs. I’ve been involved in local politics here in Seattle and so my experience is definitely much more on the corporate side, as well as being involved in the politics of a very progressive and liberal city, but with a very small Jewish population.
The experience here is that it’s much more the broader, American, West Coast, Jewish experience, where most people don’t really know very many other Jewish people so isolated. Certainly, Boeing is more conservative and/or purple culturally organization, and so there’s not very many Jews that work in Boeing, especially in the manufacturing areas that I’ve been supportive.
Oana Amaria: Interesting. Something that I shared earlier is that I was so inspired and impressed by how rooted your talk was, Rabbi Rose, in the social justice, especially as we were sitting at the bar mitzvah. I have to be vulnerable here and say I had no idea, which is silly, because I do this for a living. But all these photos I had always seen of the civil rights movement, I feel like were cropping out Jewish leaders that were right next to Martin Luther King or fill-in-the-blank at Selma. I felt a little dumbfounded.
Of course, via that experience, I started going down the rabbit hole of all of the history behind the interconnectedness and the shared experience of the Jewish community within that movement here in the US. I want to say I don’t know if I’d be the only person that felt that way before I went through that experience. I wonder are there other unknowns? Again, I’m cognizant that I am putting the onus on you to educate us, which is the opposite of what we talked about to do, by the way.
But is there anything that you’d love to share that you’re like, “Hey, I’d love to debunk this or did you know?” Which I think we could all, especially now more than ever, learn a little bit more about the nuance and the stickiness of what this looks like. Not just in our country, I think globally there’s a whole other conversation, but maybe we can start with here in the US.
Rabbi Paula Rose: Sure, thank you. Thank you for sharing that vulnerability, because I think that knowing what we don’t know is a really important first step to learning. That is the only place that we learn from. I’ll say that actually the way that we talk about the Jewish role in the civil rights movement here in the US, I think is actually complicated in two ways. The two critiques that I hear are like, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea. How was I missing this really important history of standing together and working together for something?”
Then I also share this critique of the other side, which is we are always talking about Rabbi Hessel and Dr. King, and what have Jews done for the civil rights movement lately? It’s interesting. Look, all of those things are true. It’s a really important story to tell. It’s also important that we look beyond just that moment of the ’60s, and really think about how we continue in diverse coalitions to work together for bringing about a more just society. It’s yes to both of those things and neither of them is perfect.
I think the first thing that I really want to debunk is who the Jewish people are. I think often, people have stereotypes of Jews as white, of Jews as being of Ashkenazi Eastern European descent. Especially here in the United States, Jews being of middle or high socioeconomic status, of Jews being really educated. Those stereotypes all come from things. They’re not invented and pulled out of thin air, and the Jewish people are incredibly diverse.
We come in a huge variety of appearances, geographic origins, socioeconomic backgrounds, racial and ethnic backgrounds. It’s the same conversation about intersectionality that we have about everything else. But I think sometimes that gets forgotten because they think that sometimes people just have an imagined prototype of what a Jew is or who a Jew is. I think that’s what important to hold onto, because I think sometimes in the whole, it’s never a productive game to play the oppression Olympics.
But I think sometimes there’s this sense of, “Well, Jews benefit from white privilege. Jews have more privilege than this group or less privilege than that group.” It’s much messier than that because there are certainly Jews, myself included, who benefit from white privilege. But there are also lots of Jews who are Black, who certainly don’t benefit from white privilege and often find themselves doubly marginalized. That’s just one example. I think that holding onto that diversity is a really important starting place for the conversation.
Oana Amaria: I love that.
Joshua Newman: One thing I can add onto that as well, is that the Jews position of privilege and power has changed dramatically over time. From the Jewish identity and the Jewish diaspora, the history of the broader Jewish people in the world. Our memory is much older than just the last 70 years since the civil rights movement, but older than the 250 years roughly of the United States.
Our history of oppression goes back thousands of years and we remember that. That’s critical to our identity and our sensitivity to it. Even though we’re at a very, is that especially American Jew are in a very privileged point in time today. The Russian Jews 40 years ago were being violently oppressed. It’s very different throughout the world and it is throughout the world, so geographically as well as over time.
That’s something to hold in mind as well when we’re talking about how does anti-Semitism look at today? We need to look at today and the country and the location. It’s just a really tricky conversation to have in the American context.
Felicia Scott: I love that you are speaking to the many different contexts that the conversation can occur in. What I’d like to know because Rabbi Rose, when you were speaking, is being a member of the African American community, you hear a whole lot of different things. You brought up the oppression Olympics, and that is definitely I think a conversation that needs to be had. It reminds me of I’d say about six weeks ago, I watched a documentary with my niece.
My niece is 11. We were watching a documentary on anti-Semitism. As she began to watch a documentary, at the very end, she turned to me and she says to me, “Jewish people had a hard time too.” Then I said, “Yes.” She said, “I don’t think harder than Black people, but a hard time.” I said, “Well, you know what? The reality is we don’t need to worry about who had a harder time. What we have to figure out is how do we become good human beings that when anyone’s having a hard time, we care.”
The avenue to that conversation was education. I definitely want to touch on education and what’s happening in the education realm a little bit later. But I’d love to know in that conversation I had with my niece, if I could have gone deeper, if I could have said more to empower her to be an ally. What is it you would like to share? Both you, Josh and Rabbi Rose, what is it you would like to share with people that we could do, we could focus on?
We could learn to become a good ally to the Jewish community, especially now when you have pop culture figures speaking out in ways that are irresponsible. Then you have people like Kanye defending Nazis and exalting Hitler. What do you say to people to empower them to be good allies?
Rabbi Paula Rose: You want to go first, Joshua, or do you want me to take a first stab?
Joshua Newman: Go, go. You go first, Rabbi.
Rabbi Paula Rose: Okay. I love that question. I have a lot of answers for it. First of all, I think the first thing is really education, is learning. I had a conversation just this week with a 12-year-old who said, “Rabbi Rose, I have to have a meeting this week with a kid in my class. I don’t remember if it was the teacher or the principal. Can you help me explain why drawing swastikas isn’t funny and why that’s hurtful to Jewish students?” In some ways, that was heartbreaking conversation to have.
I was like, “12 year old, this shouldn’t have to be your job to educate families.” Well, I did clarify actually because I have heard a lot of examples about schools handling this poorly. It turns out that actually they made clear that they wanted to be part of that process. It was not that the school said you need to do this educating of your peer. But that I think is a big part of it, is just learning and learning the history to be able to have that empathy of like, “Wow.”
Like you said, Felicia, the Jews have had a hard time. Just when we know that, when we know people’s stories, we’re open and sensitive in a different way. That I think is really important for kids and for adults. Then in terms of what to do with that, I think a really important thing, again also for kids and adults, is trusting Jewish people and believing us when we say that we experienced something as anti-Semitic, which should be obvious.
I would hope that that would be what we would do forever in the same way, that hopefully we would trust somebody of other identities who says, “Hey, actually what you said or did was hurtful or offensive.” Then it’s our responsibility to take that seriously and learn why, and then commit to doing something differently in the future. That I think is a really important part. I think sometimes reasons that are not totally clear to me, sometimes anti-Semitism isn’t taken with that same seriousness.
People perceive it as like, “You’re just whining, you’re just complaining. It wasn’t really anti-Semitism.” But sure, maybe it wasn’t like the nicest thing, but it was intended to be funny. Or especially also a lot of anti-Semitism manifests in dog whistles, so it’s sometimes a little bit less blatant and it’s really there. Those dog whistles are used for a reason. They are intended to be explicitly hurtful, but it’s not quite as obvious unless you know what to look for.
Sometimes that results in anti-Semitism being dismissed, because whoever the arbiter is doesn’t necessarily know what to look for and isn’t picking up on it. Really trusting and listening to Jewish people when they say that they’ve experienced something that was hurtful.
Joshua Newman: Certainly, let me second the Rabbi’s point about trusting and believing Jews when we say something is offensive or that we say it’s anti-Semitic. We as a people have a very long history about this and can recognize that. Yes, the subtlety of the dog whistles are very much a part of it. I think the other thing to really hold in mind is that in general, Jews even in America feel vulnerable. We are a very, very small community.
Even if we perhaps play a disproportionate role culturally or in leadership positions in the United States today, we’re still a tiny community. We only make up 2% of the American population, and most of the Jewish community is not particularly religious, so they’re not visible. Any kind of emphasis or attention in some ways, negative attention especially, can be very, very scary.
Obviously, even though we’re only 2% of the population, that’s something like 60% of hate crime in the United States or religious hate crimes in the United States are targeted towards Jews. The negative attention is really there. A lot of synagogues, including ours, when we have large events, we have armed security there.
Every weekend my children walk past an armed guard to go into synagogue. That’s relatively normal for us and that’s not normal for most other communities in the United States.
Oana Amaria: Gosh, I’m so glad you brought that up, Josh, because that’s a really big part of the Jewish experience here, mentioning the armed guards and for obvious reasons. What was so interesting about what you both shared, so Rabbi Rose, this piece around trust us when we tell you. It’s very similar to what we talk about in our sessions about microaggressions. Felicia, for her entire life has heard things like, “You’re so articulate, I didn’t expect you to be blah, blah, blah.”
Or did you come up with that all by yourself? Whether it’s gender, whether it’s color, whether it’s affluent, whatever, and I think that’s such a powerful insight to continue. As we say, repetition doesn’t spoil the prayer. Let’s just keep saying that in our world, because to your point, if you have experienced this micro behavior your entire life, you’ll smell it from a mile away.
I can’t explain that to you and I can’t teach that to you, but what you can do is trust that this is a real thing for me. I think that couldn’t be said enough. The other thing for me is this idea, we talk about the principles of allyship in our sessions. It’s like it’s foundational to the work that we do. One of the things that we talk about is also this idea that oftentimes, especially now to your point, Joshua.
It’s pretty scary to stick your neck out for any identity outside of… The way I think about it is if nobody sees my name, they wouldn’t know that I’m an immigrant or a refugee, or all these other things that are part of my identity and experiences. I get to pass with all my privilege and all my stuff. It’s like there is a cost to allyship, and sometimes at minimum, it will make you uncomfortable. At maximum, it is something that will cost you your life.
For example, if you go visit your friends at a synagogue for their bar mitzvah and something happens in that community. To me, I think part of what is important to potentially share, and Joshua, I’d love to hear your example because I feel like in the corporate world, it’s very interesting. We talk about allyship all the time, but one of the things that I always emphasize for me personally, is this idea that you have to take the struggle on as your own.
The only way that we are going to get to a place of that empathy, Rabbi Rose that you talked about, to want to have the curiosity to learn more, to want to trust people in various communities, is to be able to understand that if they’re coming for you, they’re coming for me. If they don’t understand you, they’re not going to understand me because it’s the same muscle. It’s the same blocker, it’s the same level of fear. It’s the same unmet need that shows up in a human being to harbor that type of hate, ignorance, whatever it is.
I think it’s really powerful and it’s really important. I wonder how does that get applied to DEI efforts within organizations? Our predominant audience, 98% of the work we do is on the private side, and more often in tech than in engineering, for example, what you’re doing, Joshua. How do we take the collective evolution of our society and everything that’s happening right now, good and bad, and how do we apply that to where we spend the majority of our day?
Joshua, maybe we’ll start with you. What does allyship look like? When you think about we’ve all had good and bad DEI experiences. We do this work for a living, and that sometimes I’m like, “This is why my job is harder. Going through whatever you just said is why.” To me, it’s really tricky, back to the complexity of this conversation. I don’t know if you could even answer this question.
Joshua Newman: It’s hard. Yeah. Thank you for the intellectual and emotional challenge of that question. I think that what comes to mind is that what do I want as a relatively religious Jew in the corporate world in the United States? I think that that’s just a broader acceptance.
Or even just acknowledgement that not everyone is the same, especially around holidays and tiring. My experience has been and I would hesitate to even call it anti-Semitism. But just this erasure that anyone at Boeing is anything other than just your standard American Christian.
Oana Amaria: For example, the Christmas sweater themes in corporate America. It seems benign, but it’s like…
Joshua Newman: Well, and fortunately, there are enough companies that make ugly Hanukah sweaters that I have one and that I wear proudly to participate in that broader American theme. But the default of, “Well, it’s the start of school, and why do you need to take a bunch of time off for these holidays? Or what are you going to be doing for Easter?” Or just referring to Boeing shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s, and so most people refer to it as the Christmas break.
Intellectually, I understand why, sure, they call it that. I guess I don’t expect the main population, 80% of the population, to change their language so that I feel included. But it would feel better if it wasn’t just the immediate default to assume that everyone is just like you. Just a little bit more flexibility, whether it’s the term Happy Holidays, I’ve always been really comfortable with the term Happy Holidays because you got yes, Hanukkah and Kwanza and Christmas.
But then you also have Thanksgiving that’s right around there and you have New Year’s. To me, it was like the term Happy Holidays literally was a pretty straightforward, logical way of saying, “Hey, there’s a bunch of these holidays coming up. I hope you have a great time with all of them.” It doesn’t seem that politically correct to me to just say Happy Holidays, so just an acceptance. The assumption, I wish more people would start with the assumption that the world is more diverse than they assume that it is.
Rabbi Paula Rose: Yeah. I would just add to that I think that this is particularly complicated in Seattle, because I think the statistic is something about Washington being the least church state in the nation. There’s a general skepticism of religion where people think it’s weird that religion is an important part of your life, if you’re a Jew for whom religion is an important part of your life. Then it’s weird that it’s not the default religion that they know about. That can sometimes be doubly tricky.
You’ll get organizations or schools saying things like, “We don’t give off for any religious holiday.” It’s like, “Well, sure that’s sort of true, but you probably have some winter break or whatever that means that actually you’re not expecting people to be working on December 25th. Easter is always on a Sunday, so probably you’re also not expecting people to be working that day.” Really what you mean is we give off for the default religious holidays.
I guess if you have some other one, that’s weird, don’t do that. That I think can be extra complicated. My husband works as a high school teacher up in Granite Falls, which is about 40 miles northeast of here, sort of last stop before the mountains. Culturally, really, really different from Seattle, but much more religious, no Jews. There might be a few in Granite Falls. But quite frankly, my husband is the only Jewish person that most of his colleagues have met, and that most or even all of his students have met knowingly.
But in some ways, he has a much easier time because they understand what it is to have religion be a really important part of your life. They understand, “You need to leave a little bit earlier on Fridays because you have to get home in order to be ready for Shabbat, for our Sabbath before sundown.” Of course, that’s really important. We’re going to accommodate that to make that happen. In a way that actually I’ve heard about people who are in Seattle having a much harder time because there isn’t that same respect for religion.
I think there are different challenges in current kinds of communities. I don’t want to look at everything up in Granite Falls in rose-colored glasses. But that particular piece of this, I think, is sometimes easier when you’re in a context where there are just more people who have religion as an important part of their lives. Can then expand to have the empathy of like, “My religion is really important to me. Your religion is really important to you. It’s different from mine, but I can understand what that is.”
Then figure out how to be accommodating of it. The other thing that I would add, because we were talking about holidays, is I think there’s also sometimes a temptation to slap the right language on something and think that you solved the problem. If you have a Christmas party where there’s a Christmas tree and Christmas music and the whole vibe is Christmas. Then you’re like, “No, no, no, no, no, that’s not inclusive. It’s a holiday party.” But you haven’t actually changed anything of content of that experience.
But you have now called it a holiday party and then you can say, “Look, you should feel totally welcome and seen and included. This isn’t a Christmas party, it’s a holiday party.” Look, I appreciate the step. Good job remembering that not everybody celebrates Christmas, but also that’s still a Christmas party. Really thinking beyond the language shift, to actually what would it mean to make something feel like a more inclusive experience, that really sees and validates and celebrates different people and their identities, and their holidays and who they are?
Oana Amaria: I saw something really cute on LinkedIn with the Pillsbury Doughboy. I don’t know if this made their rounds to you all, but it was like he has risen, off limits until sundown, he has knots. I was like, “Wow, this is very clever.”
Because this year, we had Passover and Ramadan and Easter all on the same Sundays. What an invitation to coexist, which I think really gets at the heart of what you’re sharing. Thank you for that. Please, yeah.
Felicia Scott: As I was listening, a lot of thoughts for coming up for me, and it won’t be answered in this podcast for sure. I think it takes a lot of work for us together. But what I recognize is before the podcast started recording, when I introduced myself to Rabbi Rose behind the scenes, I defined myself in three ways. One of the primary ways that I define myself is by my faith. As everything was being shared, I just was thinking about how do we move to this space where we don’t have to de anything?
So de-emphasize anything and create a space where people can have their experience, experience their culture, who they are, but in ways where we don’t feel the need to exalt one culture or another, or minimize one culture or another. Because I think the tough part of the conversation starts, when we look at de-emphasizing any dimension of someone’s identity. Because it’s not that simple as like you said about the making it a holiday party.
It’s not that simple when it’s core to someone’s identity, but there’s got to be a way where you can be all of who you are, and I can be all of who I am. Then I don’t feel unsafe or slighted when I’m not the center of the conversation. Again, we won’t get answers here. This is the work that we do and it will take time, but I think that is a key and intricate piece. But definitely what I would love to ask you, both of you, is as you think about it.
All of us, if you keep on breathing and you keep waking up in the morning, we’re getting older. As we’re getting older, there are new people in charge. From a faith perspective, I get concerned sometimes with the younger generation because to me it seems more of a push to define yourself outside of faith. I think that’s a challenge, especially when we talk about social issues even. It’s like I can’t tell you how many churches are like, “This has no place in church.”
But of course it does, because I think whatever your faith is, it should minister to the totality of who you are so it can’t be this compartmentalized thing. But most definitely, I’d love to know what can we do for the younger generation? What advice would you give the younger people, who I think probably experience more of a pressure to step away from their faith, in terms of defining themselves when they’re outside of their faith community than maybe previous generations have experienced or felt? What would you say to those folks and how would you mentor them?
Joshua Newman: Well, I’ll jump in and I think I’ve got an answer to the first question you asked, which was how do we move to a space where we don’t need to de-emphasize any part of our identity? For me, and this has really come up in how do I talk with my kids about it? My kids are in public school here in Seattle. They’ve gotten lots of lessons and discussions about diversity and equity, primarily from a racial and cultural standpoint and certainly not religious.
Then of course, they’re growing up is as religious minorities, both to the larger Christian community as well as the larger agnostic/HBS/a religious American community. But for me, what I’ve discovered is that and what I tell them is that I can celebrate my own religion and my own identity, and culture and faith. I can celebrate that and recognize that somebody else has their own.
This is especially a conflict in monotheism where it’s just like, “Well, we have our idea of God and theologically, it’s either my way or you’re going to hell.” That’s a lot of the theological underpinning. But when we manifest that today, it’s like, “Well, look, this is mine and I’m proud of it and I can celebrate it. That’s somebody else’s and they can be proud and celebrate it. Let’s not get caught up on the theological details.”
But focusing on their celebrating their own ethnic heritage, their own religious identity, their own cultural identity, all these things, let’s just celebrate what we each have. We’ll celebrate what’s our own and not prevent other people from celebrating their own identity. I think though, your other question about the trend of moving away from faith in the United States, I think is spot on.
That analysis is really insightful and may pose a problem where politics are really replacing that identity. Now it’s like, “Well, I’m a Democrat and I wouldn’t want my kids to marry a Republican outside of my political faith.” The absence of a religious faith, the absence of a bigger picture in humanity, may make the political fights that we’re having today more vicious.
Because they seem more central to almost our individual religious identities. How to capture that or how to address that, I’m going to toss that question over to the Rabbi.
Rabbi Paula Rose: That’s fair, though I think I’m going to deflect a little bit and answer a different piece of this.
Joshua Newman: Yeah, good.
Rabbi Paula Rose: I think that the way that this plays out in terms of transmitting to younger generations about the value of being part of a religious community. I think that there are two different things going on that make me actually optimistic, in particular for the Jewish community. I can’t really speak to other communities because this is just my bubble that I operate in. But I think though there is obviously a lot of pushback on it, we live in many ways in a more multicultural moment than previous generations of American life.
In some ways, I think that actually creates a different openness for our young people today. I think about my parents who both grew up in this country, my dad as the son of Holocaust survivors, who were immigrants who came over here in the late ’40s. There was a lot more pressure to assimilate, to be like your neighbors, to give up those particular pieces. Even in the observant community where there had been an accepted norm of men covering their heads really all the time when they’re out and about in the world.
That fell by the wayside here in the United States. There was a notion of being a Jew at home and a man or a person in the street, and really working to assimilate because that’s how you found a place for yourself and survived and became successful in this country. Now I think there is actually more openness. We still have a way to go, but there’s I think so much more openness to multiculturalism, that I feel really grateful that our kids can be like, “Yeah, I’m Jewish and here’s what that means about me.”
I do some things differently than you might. I might eat particular things or not other things. I might have different holidays. I might feel comfortable covering my head even when I’m not in exclusively Jewish context. I think that gives me some hope, that openness. I think in particular in the community that we find ourselves in here in Seattle, our kids are really spread through a lot of different schools in a way that actually is somehow surprising to me.
In other communities where I’ve lived and worked, often Jewish communities often live in geographic proximity to themselves. That’s how we create critical mass to have community in a world where we’re such a small percentage of the population. Sometimes that means that even in a local public school district, half of the students in a class will be Jewish. Here in Seattle, it’s not like that. A lot of our kids from a really young age have the experience of being one of very few Jews in their classroom, and in their social networks and things like that.
I think there are things about that that’s really hard. But I think it also sometimes encourages a sense of pride and a sense of, “Well, this is the thing that’s different about me, so I should probably learn about it and figure out how to make meaning from it, because people are going to ask me about it all the time.” I am going to be the Jewish representative to my classroom, so I guess I should do a good job of that. All of those things I think give me some hope.
Then the other thing is I think less the responsibility perhaps of the audience, or at least my imagined audience of this podcast. But really a challenge to religious leaders of how do we do the work of showing future generations the way that religious tradition and religious community can be a source of meaning and grounding and inspiration in one’s life? That is the work that I try to do every day, and God willing will be successful in that.
Because in the marketplace of ideas, we have to compete and I think that’s a good thing. We really have to live and demonstrate that this can be a source of community and of meaning for people.
Oana Amaria: There are two things that you both said that I just want to recap, because I think that’s really important. Josh, what I heard you say is the better you know yourself and the better you know the things that are important to you that you want others to see in you.
You could actually use that as a roadmap to learn about other people. Whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s in your neighborhood with your play dates, with our very painful play dates that everyone always attempts to coordinate. It really becomes [inaudible 00:39:34].
It is really hard, yeah.
Oana Amaria: Yeah. This practice piece for us individually and collectively to say, “It starts with me. The more I know about why that matters to me, the more I can use those questions and that discovery, and that reflection to learn about other people, why they matter to them, why it matters to them.” The other thing I heard you say, Rabbi Rose, is something that really stuck with me. I grew up in a Pentecostal family and community.
Your call to action for religious leaders, I grew up very much, I call it in the bubble. That is not my faith or my practice now at all. It’s one of these things where part of the reason I think why that happened, is because in addition to the religion or the faith, there was a lot of us versus them built in culturally. That just did me, one as a human being, from the very beginning, I was like, “Nah, that can’t be it.”
That really spurred for me this fight, and again, I often talk about how hard it is to leave a community. I think no one, not no one, but I think there’s a lot of under appreciation of what that means if you don’t come from a very religious upbringing. I think what I would add to your call to action is how do you do that in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s like you or nobody else? You have to pick. I think it really depends.
Sometimes the way that faith is shared with younger people is I call it the pyramid scheme. It’s like if you don’t get everybody else to believe in what you believe in. I’ve experienced the most incredible Christians, the most incredible Jewish people, the most incredible Muslims that are true to their faith. Something that stuck with me once, is being an extreme Christian or an extreme Muslim or an extreme Jewish person is about extreme love, and extreme empathy and extreme desire to be better.
I wish that would be the thing that we instill in our kids and our communities because then you don’t have this how I grew up. I can’t talk to you, you’re not from my church. That doesn’t make any sense. This is not the world we live in.
Joshua Newman: That’s really intense.
Oana Amaria: Yeah. I think it destroys in the end, it doesn’t create, which I think is something that we’re trying to get to. I love that. I’m reflecting out loud and that I hope that’s okay. What I wanted to end our talk on, because we’re at time and it’s been so rich and beautiful. We often close our episodes with like, “What are you excited about?” Then a parting request for our listeners. Oftentimes, the people that listen to these conversations are D&I practitioners, they are champions.
If you think of ERGs, Joshua, if you think about the people that are out and on the front lines of this fight, and of what’s happening in our country right now. Something fun that you’re excited about or working on right now that you’d love to share. Then what’s your parting request? Magic wand you get it if you ask for it, so what are you asking for?
Joshua Newman: I’m trying to put it into words. Parting request is that any of your listeners remember that Jews in general and the Jewish people feel vulnerable and are small. We don’t control the world. We don’t control the banks. We don’t control the media. Attacking Jews is not punching up. We’re just small. That’s all.
Just let us go do our thing, we’ll be fine and that’d be great. Thanks. That’s hard. Excited about, I’ll be honest, not thinking about anything in the community right now. Excited to go camping with my kids this summer and play outside. Thank you so much for having me and joining me. This was a lot of fun.
Oana: Amaria Listen, Seattle summers are something to be excited about. A whole three weeks we get.
Joshua Newman: Yeah, it’s special. Go visit somewhere else in January, but stay here in July and August.
Rabbi Paula Rose: Amen to all of that. In particular, real gratitude for creating the space for this conversation, for inviting me to join it, I feel really honored, but also for remembering that Jews and that anti-Semitism are part of this DEI conversation. Because I think when we think of DEI, that’s not usually I think the first place said any of us go. If our goal is really about diversity, it means bringing in a lot of different experiences beyond the first ones that we raised.
I really appreciate that. In terms of the parting challenge and also something that I’m excited about. I personally, beyond all of the ways that we talked about already. I feel like the most effective thing that as Jews we can do to combat anti-Semitism, is to live joyful, proudful, meaningful Jewish lives. I invite everyone else along on that journey too, even if Judaism is not your own tradition and you’re not part of the Jewish people.
Like a parting challenge would be to engage with something in Jewish life, learning history beyond just a history of suffering and oppression. That is there too and it’s important to learn about. I’m not saying to do one at the expense of the other, that is also important. It’s a foundational build up for understanding the Jewish experience in America and worldwide today. I don’t want to neglect any of that.
But also, there’s beautiful Jewish music and there’s great literature about things that are not just the Holocaust, and there’s beautiful art and there’s great television. There’s so much out there and really affirming that the Jewish people deserves, like all of us, to live joyful, meaningful lives. Being part of that project as opposed to just focusing on the negative, I think is really important.
Oana Amaria: I love that so much. One of the things I was going to share that’s been really fun, I don’t know if this has made the rounds, but there’s the Jewish Matchmaker Show on Netflix now. But I feel like people are getting little samplings of all the different types of ways you can engage in Jewish culture. I would highly recommend that. It’s been really fun to watch.
I personally just wanted to tell you that it is absolutely our honor to be able to be lucky enough to have access to you all, and to be lucky enough to spend our day thinking about these things. I just wanted to thank you both and hopefully we can continue on the conversation. It doesn’t have to be just this one thing. But to your point, I think that for D&I to make a difference, we really need to get into the nuance.
We really need to figure out how to do better with teaching behaviors and teaching the specifics, instead of let’s all get along. Come bring your tacos to Taco Tuesday or whatever, or your mod balls. That only goes so far, we need to move beyond that and we need to get to this sticky stuff. I think this piece around joy is, gosh, you just try not to cry on the pod.
It brought up a lot of emotion because it’s similar to what I think other communities feel. Let us just focus on the joy as well, so thank you for that.
Felicia Scott: Definitely, and I will be reflecting on this conversation throughout the day. I have learned a lot. You’ve given me a lot to think about. As you know, Firefly just wants to thank you both for all the wonderful things that you’ve shared.
I love the ending note of being joyful and celebrating who you are. I think if we could all do that, be joyful, celebrate who we are, I think the world would be a lot lovelier of a place to be. Thank you both so very much. Should I make it to Seattle in the summer, I hope to meet you.
Joshua Newman: Yeah.
Felicia: Scott Hope to meet you both in person. Thank you very much.
Joshua Newman: It was wonderful.
Felicia Scott: Bye-bye.