As an alumnus of UMass Amherst, (1971) and an active participant in the Hillel program that started the first kosher kitchen on campus, I am dismayed to hear of the way Mae Lou Zaleski perceives she has been treated. While I am not surprised by the responses and reactions she got, this is not the history and culture of the organization that I knew. During my time as a student, one of our active members was a Jew of color from Chicago who attended most of our events and was treated the same as all other students. We were also joined at some of our events and services by several other Jews of color, including the late English department professor Julius Lester.
While she has had some negative reactions at times, many of us have experienced similar reactions, but we have persevered. And, there is certainly a world of opportunity for Jews of color like this young lady. For instance, the largest Reform temple in the United States in New York City has a rabbi/cantor, Angela Buchdahl, who was born in Seoul, South Korea. Communities of Jews of color are springing up all over the world, and I work closely with a community in Kenya.
Hopefully Mae Lou will have an opportunity to visit Israel and see Jews throughout the land of all shapes, sizes, and color. She is not alone, but rather is part of a rapidly growing and exciting movement of people just like her who are experiencing the joy of Judaism. There are many of us who are ready willing and able to help you find your place in Judaism.
Alan Pransky, Peabody