Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish



On an almost daily basis, I receive emails from people asking if I am in fact actually Jewish. Although I do find it somewhat bizarre that they find satisfaction in my acknowledgment of what I have already stated numerous times, I usually respond. Come to think of it, the occasions where I have been accepted as a Jew (without further questioning) have been few and far between.

  • “ No you can’t be Jewish you are Hispanic”
  • “You don’t look Jewish”
  • “Escobar… is that a Sephardic name?”

Recently I discovered that without our knowledge, the validity of my own and my brother Gonzalo’s Jewishness has come into question (to the point where documentation has been requested) from people that we are now very close with.

Below are some of the examples of comments (not emails, I do not share the content of emails without permission) from youtube:

roundedwhtcollar Am I the only one who thinks this reprobate Turd is NOT in fact a Jew?

Rafaelpicc But is her las name jewish? or converted?

ReptorY her last name isnt jewish.

xruchy you are not jewish i guess… tus videos= cero aporte

raquelita40 she’s half Jewish/ half Guatemalan.

nakedjanet i am also suspicious. for one thing, escobar is not a typical Jewish name. For another, Jewish girls are usually a whole lot smarter, and have a whole lot more substance, than this girl has

(from chaptzem blogspot) There is no way she is Jewish- there may be a small chance her family are anusim or something.

But what gets even more bizarre is that interspersed with in those comments are horrible anti-semitic statements:

johnnycastle86xx all the jews have to die, stupid jewish puta de mierda. Que mierda que Hitler no mato a tu familia, asi tu no hubieras nacido. muerte a los judios y muerte a israel.

mocrostyle3600 AnotherJewish nasty bitch

mrrimfire She’s an ugly cockroach

filet there’s a nice Jewishcrew- club… Its re-open and called Auschwitz. the drinks are on the house!!! but only for jewish people

roshanpinto13 i want to put you in a concentration camp bitch if your people want israel so bad why don’t you go there and rid the world from your hideous jewish ways

So in light of my sarcasric sense of humor I entitled this post : Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish I wonder what will come of that statement… From Judaism 101: Who Is a Jew?

First, traditional Judaism maintains that a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew, regardless of who his father is. The liberal movements, on the other hand, consider a person to be Jewish if either of his parents was Jewish and the child was raised Jewish. Thus, if the child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother is raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Reform movement, but not according to the Orthodox movement. On the other hand, if the child of a Christian father and a Jewish mother is not raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Orthodox movement, but not according to the Reform movement! The matter becomes even more complicated, because the status of that children’s children also comes into question.

In my case my mother is Jewish and my father is not. Yet it is my father that pushed me to go to Hebrew school until I was 16. Rain or shine my parents have been attending Shabbat services at JRC for almost 20 years. I remember being so mad as a child that my friends got to go out on Friday nights, and I was stuck with my family not even allowed to watch TV when we got home from services. Vickie Korey left the nicest comment on my Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog:

I remember Maya at Friday night services at JRC, sometimes listening intently, sometimes reading, but always being present. When one of the children of our extended spiritual family grows to be such a fine, thoughtful and accomplished young woman we are all proud. Gonzolo and Tina have worked hard to set a strong foundation for Maya and I am so pleased for her and her family.

A few months ago I met with my Rabbi to discuss my (art) work. During our discussion I mentioned to him how my father is feeling really nervous about me having an orthodox wedding where he will not be included in the ceremony. Brant said something to me that really touched my heart. Your father is the essence of what a Jew is, he is a stranger in a strange land. I agree with him whole-heartedly, and if you ask most JRC members I am sure they would agree as well. However that does not change the fact that he is not considered to be Jewish by our neighbors, and even if he converted, to them it would not be halakhic unless he went through orthodox conversion.

So who is a Jew? Who determines this?

As I stated in a previous post I will be working as the art director this summer for Camp JRF. I am in the process of creating this summer’s curriculum that will be geared towards answering these very questions and challenging notions of Jewish Identity. Below is a very rough sketch of my plan…. (Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or would be interested in contributing any resources)

The Changing Face of Jewish Identity: an exploration of self and what it means to be a Jew in our contemporary society

To introduce the concept of a changing Jewish Identity will discuss the following:

  • How do we define ourselves/ how do others define us?
  • Who is a Jew?
  • Can someone be more or less Jewish/ who decides this?
  • What is our role in society?
  • What characteristics make up a Jew?

Mediums Mixed media sculpture

Art Exhibitions The Jewish Identity Project Too Jewish Challenging Tradition Identities

Written Works by Ilan Stavans Achy Obejas Rebecca Walker

Campers will produce mixed media sculptures that reflect their perception of what it means to be a Jew

Pre- Activities:

  • We will begin as an ice breaker/ intro to project identifying the characteristics that make up Jews.
  • Followed by a discussion on contemporary representations of Jews in Popular culture

Project Campers working in groups of 3-4 will have the option of creating either abstract or representational mixed media sculptures that to them represent Jewish identity. Prior to the construction of their piece students will need to create a (flexible) proposal that outlines their piece.

  • Will it be site specific (interact with a certain location)?
  • What form will it take?
  • Will it have a function?
  • What materials will be used based on the above?

If they end up going with more representational sculptures I thought it would be really cool to photograph the sculptures and to place them in various Jewish settings and non-Jewish settings (baseball stadium, temple, Shabbat dinner, work, school….)

17 thoughts on “Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish

  1. It’s hard for people to negotiate those of us who don’t fit comfortably into tiny little boxes. As a Latina American Jew, I struggle with the ignorace of those who think I shouldn’t exist, can’t possibly exist or must really hate myself for having a multiracial identity.

  2. te escribo en español porque no se ingles..yo pienso que tu eres 100% judia quizas falta que conoscas la belleza del judaismo..pero de un vientre materno yehudi el bebe nace 100% judio..tambien es un poco raro que tu padre aya sido el que dio el primer paso, por decirlo asi..pero no le hagas caso a la gente..hay gente que tiene la cabeza en el encanta tu arte, en serio..pero pienso que..

  3. Maya, this summer was completely amazing. I planned to have a tallis photo shoot with my mom tomorrow, so you can have the pictures really soon. Thank you so much for that experience.

  4. I want to thank all of you for your feedback. I am sorry it took me this long to reply. This summer was amazing and I could not be more proud of the work the campers produced.

    However, since they are minors I am not going to post any of their pictures without parental consent.

    I would really like to give them the opportunity to reflect on their experiences in a public forum, so that other youth may be inspired.

    So what I am going to do is post images of some of the pieces created and ask that if you are the parent of a JRF camper or a camper yourself and would like to participate in this dialog please contact me and we will move ahead accordingly.

  5. there are all different ideas about jewishness floating around in the modern world

    many of which have really little to do with our religion.

    nationalism, secularism, and certainly modern racism have created a lot of contradictory and confusing notions of what a Jew is.

    The American mainstream media almost always depicts Jews as being pale and homogenous. (This is probably rooted in racist history circa 1920s, when American Jews, at that time mostly European immigrants, in the minds of the general public began to be lumped into the “white race”.) Hispanic Jews are in every major city in the US…but the Jewish characters in television and movies are never Hispanic. Or Black, or Asian. Unfortunately, I’ve observed that sometimes this leads to most non-Jews in America and a lot of Jews even to think of Jews that dont fit the TV stereotype as “exotic”. I feel the Jewish community needs to address this in a big way, because this situation is, in many instances, causing huge problems for Jews who don’t fit the stereotype.

    For adults, the remarks or different treatment may be something they can at least endure. But for younger people facing the same problem, such alienation can be psychologically disastrous. If the American Jewish community is to continue to flourish (IY”H!), then some diversity training may be in order for Jewish professionals and eventually the Jewish community at large.

    Your stereotype videos were very thought provoking, though, I gotta say, a bit disturbing. Perhaps that’s what you were going for.

  6. I think your best revenge with be the creativity that this adversity sparks in you.
    My dtr, Naima, met you at camp, so when I saw the link to your blog, I came here. Also, your mother was my teacher long, long ago, at Rush. She was the only one I could relate to, and she only taught us for about 2 weeks!

  7. It’s funny, I thought that the comments you posted from YouTube were just as antisemitic as the antisemitic ones. I look forward to hearing how the exploration of identity through art is received both from my children and from you.

  8. Hi Maya,
    You asked Can people be more or less jewish? I think the answer is in your examples of comments, 2nd section. Don’t misunderstand, I dont let that Nazis decide, who’s a Jew and who isn’t. But if I read things like “there’s a nice Jewishcrew- club… Its re-open and called Auschwitz. the drinks are on the house!!! but only for jewish people” all of us are quite the same kind of “concentration camp bitch”. It puts us all into the same boat. Liberal, Orthodox, schoimer mizwos, not interested in Halacha, halachic OK, dubious, converted. No matter. So we’ll have to treat us all as one peoples, even though we won’t suppose all of us as koscher or a possible match

  9. It’s funny how stupid and hateful some people can be.There are Jews of all flavours and conversion does not make you any less Jewish. Put it this way, when I converted my rabbi handed me my papers and sad, “After I give you this, you’re just as Jewish as anyone else. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
    So from the anti-Semites to the crazy ultra orthodox Jews that want to split hairs; I’m here, I’m a Jew, I’m proud of it and I’m not going anywhere”

  10. I like people like you.. Though you might seem provocative, and probably also are, the world wouldn’t be the same without people like you..

    Actually one of the pics are pretty provocative to me.. The one where you wear the kippah:o).. I can’t stand it.. I just don’t get why woman want to become like men.. But on the other side, it makes me think and wonder, and isn’t that what provoking is about? Even though it might not make people come to the conclusion the provoker would like to have them come to?

    Kol Tov..


    Ps. You are halachic a jew no matter what people says.. And a goodlooking to, no matter what the anti-semites say..

  11. so do you think ppl question your jewishness due to you being a latina? have ppl never heard you can have many different backgrounds, be many different things and still be one in the same?

    I myself converted…so i’m not jewish by blood, but i am jewish by faith, and choose to incorporate it into my culture…but no matter what anyone says, i’m jewish. i’m also latina…but my biological father’s background is german and irish. i never identified with that side of my heritage because i was not raised by him. i was raised by my mexican-american mother and mexican-american step father. being a latina is all i know…however i do acknowledge that i am multi-cultural, but put emphasis on my latino roots. so even though, by blood i’m not 100 percent latina…that doesn’t mean i’m not. it’s my state of mind. it’s so funny to read how ppl react to other ppl. and it’s sad that you rcvd anti-semitic remarks. all the people around us in this world will never agree, all you can do is be happy in your own heart and know that G-d already knows who you are.

  12. Very well done piece Maya. It’s interesting how the hard core anti-semites have no trouble considering you Jewish. You and your brother (who I keep posted about events in the Boston area) certainly have an interesting background.

    People seem to think that one’s ethnic/religious/cultural identifications have to add up to 100% but in the case of a Jewtino, they don’t realize you can be 100% Jewish and 100% Latino.

    And I loved the shtreimel video LOL.

  13. Pingback: Jewess » Blog Roundup: Domestic Workers, Orthodox Lies?, Interfaith Relations

  14. maya, mazal tov on your upcoming wedding. may you only have blessings and joy in your life.
    one could write books on the subject of jewish identity, and many have been written.
    you wrote that you and your brothers ‘jewishness’ has come into question. how so?
    RAMBAM says there are three characteristics of a jew: merciful, bashful and kind. these are obviously not what makes a jew jewish, but it might be an interesting discussion point.

  15. As your eloquently work demonstrates, Jewish identity is a profoundly complex organism. I’m especially intrigued by her question: “how do we define ourselves/how do others define us?” Of course every people, nation or community should reserve the right to self-definition, but we cannot deny that externally imposed definitions do not or cannot affect us in any way. And this also presumes we can reach consensus ourselves about what Jewish identity is (which we most certainly have not!)

    In so many ways, I think Jewish identity in the 21st century will have to mean being comfortable with (or learning how to deal with the discomfort of) dancing in and around our Jewish boundaries and borderlands. Your artistic explorations help us do this brilliantly, Maya – and really, at the end of the day, what could be more Jewish than that?

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