Rose Espinola describes themself as someone who sees learning as an ongoing pursuit. They spent over a decade studying outside of academia on topics ranging from coding to decolonization of menstruation to Hebrew for Jews of Color with Ammud. During that time, they also channeled their experience as a social justice organizer into working at the Florida Democratic Party, where they learned how to use analytics reports, coding, and other data skills, and went on to use those skills to drive direct action and advocacy work. Now they are enrolled in ALEPH’s Earth-Based Judaism program, and, with support from the Jews of Color Initiative, they are leading the Jews of Color Pregnancy and Post-Partum Research Project.
In their study, Espinola will collect oral histories about traditions and spirituality among Jews of Color during pregnancy, birth, abortion, pregnancy loss, and post-partum. “As a data scientist, I love oral history,” Espinola said. “I know that data comes in many forms and that qualitative data is really rich.” Oral history is a research methodology that focuses on participant narrations of their lived experiences, and it is often used to bring marginalized voices to the forefront. This is a central goal in Espinola’s research.
In the Earth-Based Judaism program, Espinola began examining existing research on Jewish post-partum practices and found there was little research on the topic. They were also inspired by their own experience of becoming pregnant and seeking traditions that could spiritually ground them.
Drawing on their own identities, Espinola’s spiritual practice is rooted in both Xicana spirituality and Judaism; Espinola’s father is mestizo Mexican, and their mother is an Ashkenazi Jew. They describe their research as exploring “post-partum traditions and spiritual confidence.”
“My goal in my study and my research is to continue to connect deeply with my ancestors and the world around me through ritual,” Espinola said. “And to build practices that allow me to feel whole—where all of my ancestors are able to dance in the same room.”
Beyond the personal spiritual connectedness Espinola derives from their research, they are excited to expand on this underexamined topic with a focus on Jews in the margins. “There’s an absence of resources on Jewish post-partum practices overall. So, it’s exciting that we’re going to center Jews of Color in this new knowledge creation,” they said, “When we’re not centered, we’re in the margins, or our stories aren’t even included.”
Samira Mehta, a researcher at the University of Colorado and Espinola’s faculty advisor, agrees. Mehta is the lead researcher creating a collection of at least 30 oral histories for University of Colorado – Boulder called Jews of Color: Histories and Futures. Mehta’s project will link to the oral histories Espinola collects, amplifying the dialogue around Espinola’s study.
Espinola said that one of the central goals of the Jews of Color Pregnancy and Post-Partum Research Project is to grow historical and contemporary records that support Jews of Color embodying their spirituality. “We want to create a historical record of customs and practices that other Jews of Color can use for their own spiritual practice.”
Espinola shared the positive experience of belonging that they are experiencing as a grantee of the Initiative. “You have an entire research grant built with the understanding that I am multiple things.” Espinola also said that JoCI’s support has had a profound impact on their research and educational journey.
“I have so much gratitude for JoCI because JoCI provided funding for my first year in the ALEPH program, and it’s helped me continue building my own spiritual confidence and feel connected to my ancestors and the world around me through the study of text and building relationships.”
Rose Espinola is currently seeking participants for their oral histories on customs and practices used among Jews of Color in the U.S. during pregnancy, birth, abortion, pregnancy loss, and post-partum. If you are interested in participating, you can fill out this form.