Dominican | Ashkinazi Jewish

Photo credit:  @_leesphotos

Photo credit: @_leesphotos

I identify as Dominican and Ashkinazi Jewish. My Mom was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, my Father is from New Jersey, USA. I grew up in North Brunswick, NJ.

I understood I was mixed-race when I was bullied for not fitting into a certain ethnic group from middle school into high school.

My mother agreed to raise my siblings and I as Jewish, which was most important to my father. Culturally, they both educated me on my bloodline and background, Jewish holidays with my father’s side of the family, stories of anti-Semitism and WWII along with going to Hebrew school and learning about the religious background of my people. On my mother’s side, I would spend summers for months at a time in Dominican Republic with my mother and siblings, dozens of aunts, uncles and cousins, learning Spanish, and cultural things like Dominican food and dancing.

Throughout middle – high school, I was constantly bullied for the way I looked. I was naturally really skinny, so I was not the typical ‘curvy’ body type that most Latina women are associated with. I also had really curly and frizzy hair that was hard to manage, which kids weren’t too kind to me about. I didn’t fit in with the White kids because I was too ‘ghetto’ for them. But I didn’t fit in with my Hispanic peers because I wasn’t Latina enough. It was very difficult for me to figure out where I fit in, until I went to college and grew into my own woman. By being able to control my schedule and therefore the people around me, I became more confident and secure with my identity. I am a bi-racial woman, with a complicated ancestry; a European mix of German, Russian, Polish from my father’s side, and a afro-Mediterranean mix of African, Spaniard and Taino on my mother’s side. I’ve honestly come to love my rare mix, which people embrace more than ever when I tell them!

As I’ve gotten older, I realized in relationships specifically, I prefer to be with someone who is mixed, preferably with Dominican if possible! I really embrace my Dominican side, with the language, cooking, dancing and social culture. If you’re not immersed or exposed to it, it can be difficult to take in or adjust to. We are a very intense and passionate people! My boyfriend is Dominican and Black but Americanized. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak Spanish, but he totally gets the Dominican jargon and culture which makes our relationship really relatable and understanding. And as far as friends, honestly most of them are Americanized children who come from immigrant parents! We’re really able to connect socially on how immigrant parents (whether you’re a child of one or both) could be a but challenging growing up in an American environment. There are cultural barriers that our parents never quite adjust to fully, and I believe my friends and I relate so much because we’re so tolerant, open minded and understanding towards cultural differences we encounter all the time. It’s made us really humble and down to earth people!

In my adult life I don’t think being mixed-race has had an effect on my work or personal life. Luckily depending on my environment I’m able to adjust socially, and I’m blessed to have those lessons with me from an American, Jewish and Dominican standpoint. I can basically comfortably thrive in any environment!

I honestly think being mixed-race is being more embraced than ever. It’s crazy we have a president that has shown racial bias and racism publicly. But for my generation, it’s been better than our parents. And I believe that it will continue to get better and better with each generation that comes. Bi-racial and mixed-race couples and children are happening more than ever, and it’s a beautiful thing! I think it really will help the human race come together in ways we really need in today’s world.

I am able to speak Spanish conversationally. My mom is from a country village in the south of Dominican Republic, a lot of slang and improper grammar is mixed into the dialogue I grew up with, so it made it pretty difficult to become fluent in Spanish.

I believe I connect with my Dominican side more. Spending summers and years in another country made me feel really connected to my people growing up, when compared to how I was bullied by Americanized kids for not fitting in. The culture is so rich in passion and music and great food, it’s hard not to be in love with that a bit more! Don’t get me wrong, I love being Jewish too. But I’m not crazy about Ashkinazi Jewish food, and I’m a very social and outgoing person. Not something I’ve really experienced from other Jewish kids my age, who were mostly spoiled and not down to earth. Aside from my family and a few friends, it was a bit difficult for me to relate to Jewish American kids.

When asked where I’m from I always say, ‘I’m Dominican and Jewish’. When people challenge me on the Jewish part (‘Jewish is a religion not a race’), I kindly and briefly remind them that throughout history, we have always been treated like a sematic race.

A negative of being mixed-race is being bullied by my peers for not fully fitting into one side or the other. A positive is being tolerant of people from all walks of life, being knowledgeable in multiple cultures.

I think today’s society is being more accepting of mixed-race than ever, and honestly as a model and actress, it’s what brands are demanding now! Ethnically ambiguous actors and models for campaigns, they recognize that’s what more people look like today than ever!

If I had the opportunity to be born again I would come back exactly the same way I am now. but maybe with more knowledge on my ancestry. Being as mixed as I am, it’s fascinating!