In Russia my family was labeled “Hebrew,” that is how you say Jewish in Russian, it was on our passport. When we moved to America, the only box I could check was white, even though I do not have Anglo-Saxon, German, British, or Scandinavian DNA. When I was 13 in Junior High School in Miami, Florida, where everybody speaks Spanish and assumes you are probably Cuban if you have dark hair, but honestly no matter what you look like; a “white guy” used to bully me whenever I walked by and say “RUSSIAN!” Which was odd to me, because I never considered myself Russian, we were excommunicated when we left the former Soviet Union, we did not belong there, and did not want to, and even though I have family there, I don’t know if I will ever go back.
My parents had no religious upbringing because it was illegal and could even land you in jail in Moscow during the Communist era. So when we were able to practice our traditions and culture, they learned from us what we learned in school, and because everyone loved the company of my friendly and brilliant mom, our holiday tradition was to get invited.
After getting married, I was happy to become more observant in my Judaism, and was grateful to be in a thriving community where my children would know their roots, customs, and culture. Now that box that you check has more options like Pacific Islander and even North Africa or Middle East, but nothing for a Slavic and Mediterranean mix like me.
The articles above and below have recently surfaced, and I really identify with them, because they give a glimpse into the complexity of the history of the Jewish people, and even though we are all over the world, we are not just white.