Grants on the Ground

Latinx Jews and the Power of Storytelling

By: Tova Ricardo  

 

Analucía Lopezrevoredo rejects the perhaps well-meaning yet ultimately patronizing phrase “being the voice for the voiceless.” Lopezrevoredo, a Peruvian-born academic, said this is an all too common description of research about marginalized communities.  Lopezrevoredo sees this marginalized group as anything but voiceless.  The Founder and Executive Director of Jewtina y co., an organization focused on the celebration and representation of Jewish Latinx identities and the power of storytelling, she has developed a platform for Jewish Latinos to share their own stories in their own words, and is launching a podcast this Friday, October 2, 2020.

 

“I really believe that the best ways to which stories can change our lives is when people tell their own stories and really decolonize that idea of storytelling, especially within the Latino community that is so diverse and so complex,” said Lopezrevoredo. Her extensive background in ethnographic storytelling, gained through her research and studies in academia, shapes her approach to the life stories of others.   

 

While she was still earning her Ph.D. in Social Work, she focused on immigrant resiliency, interviewing and documenting the stories of immigrant women seeking asylum in the U.S. Even though she wanted to pursue her academic interests in social work ethics, xenophobia, and social justice, she realized that being a tenured university professor was not the career path she dreamed for herself.   

 

She imagined being a bridge of identities and worlds often held in the margins. “There was this burning passion for me to intersect my work as a sociologist in the Jewish community because of my intersecting Jewish, Latinx, queer identity,” said Lopezrevoredo, who started working in the Jewish community six years ago.  

 

“I really wanted to have the opportunity to create something and start building a platform with the notion that I’m co-creating this with everyone around me, that our story belongs to us and that not everyone has the same Jewish Latinx story.”  

 

Before Jewtina, Lopezrevoredo entered the Jewish professional scene eager to connect Jews to one another through shared stories, histories, or gatherings, such as Open Table and JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.  

 

“I’ve been working in the Jewish community space primarily focusing on capturing stories from the periphery, stories from underrepresented and marginalized Jewish community, first within the Sephardi/Mizrahi community space.”  

 

Eventually, Lopezrevoredo realized that she wanted to establish an organization dedicated to showcasing the diverse perspectives and cultures of Latinx Jews, “We’re multiracial, we’re multiethnic, we’re Jews by Choice, we’re people who struggle with fitting into one identity over another.”  

 

Since the beginning of Jewtina, the organization has invited personal writing and testimonials from Latinx Jews as a part of their storytelling series, “Voces.” Perspectives shared illustrate the beautiful range of stories that emerge from a diverse community. Some of the narratives include life as a mixed-race Jewish woman of color, being Ashkenazi in a predominately Sephardic South American community, and descending from ancestors who spoke Ladino (Judeo-Spanish). 

 

“Jewish Latinos have constantly been on the move, one of the most active communities, and so I thought there is so much work to be done, so much opportunity to elevate Latino voices, Latino voices of color. I want to also have our community grapple with the ways we uphold systems of oppression so that we can achieve liberation.”  

 

Alongside the creation of the Voces project and community gatherings, Jewtina is advancing its program offerings with support from the Jews of Color Initiative (JoCI). One of the reasons the JoCI was established was to provide pathways for Jews of Color to gain access to resources that elevate their leadership and innovative programming. Building these pathways is crucial in a Jewish ecosystem that is easier to navigate for those who already hold unearned privileges.  Lopezrevoredo knows that not everyone recognizes “what it takes to ask for money as a person of color.”  

 

Lopezrevoredo noted that JoCI’s support of Jewtina y co.’s podcast series about Jewish Latino experiences communicated to her that “this project is worth looking into, this project is worth investing, projects led by women of color, people of color are worth investing in, and I think that that’s something so special, to me. It didn’t quite exist before the [Jews of Color] Initiative was established.”   

 

JoC-led organizations and initiatives such as JoCI and Jewtina represent a rising tide of grassroots and collaborative efforts to advance resources and spaces for Jewish diversity in the greater Jewish ecosystem. A central, underlying goal among them is to improve the present conditions so Jews of Color no longer have to explain their identities, are universally recognized as part of the fabric of the Jewish people, and are reflected in the community’s leadership.   

 

Developing the name Jewtina, coming of course from the combination of Jewish and Latina, Lopezrevoredo is charting new pathways for using language to conceptualize the multifaceted identities of Jews of Color. “I dream about a world in which terminology is fluid in different ways. People find connection to terms that allow them to further examine the intersectionality in their lives and their multiculturalism.”   

 

Make sure to catch the “Voces” podcast, launching this Friday, October 2, 2020, with new episodes each week before Shabbat! You can hear the pilot episode here.