When my son was entering preschool in the early 1990s in New York City, I noticed that a lot of the white mothers had Asian children. It was becoming increasingly common for white, Jewish women of a certain age and socio-economic background to adopt children from other countries. Adopting an infant girl from China was the easiest route at the time, and it occurred to me then that these children would eventually change the face (literally) of the Jewish community, at least in larger cities. As these children grew up Jewish, they would undoubtedly begin to change the typical stereotype of Jews being mostly white and of Eastern European decent, and they would be just as much Jewish as the white children around them.
The increasing diversity of the Jewish community is due only in part to international adoption, but it is undeniable that the “face” of the Jewish community is changing, as highlighted in the UJA-Federation’s recently-released 2011 Jewish Community Study of New York. The study shows there to be some 161,000 New York area Jews in biracial or nonwhite households. (We will look further at some of the statistics of the study in upcoming blogs.) The question now becomes how to show that the tent of the Jewish community is open to these families.
We still have a lot to do to educate institutions about sensitivity and inclusion, but it is heartening to hear how so many voices that historically have been stifled are now being heard. The status quo is being challenged and, as a result, the Jewish community must respond by becoming more engaging and inclusive.