By: Karma Feinstein Cohen
Jessica Krug is the George Washington University professor who made headlines recently for her confession that she posed as a Black woman and taught history, including African-American history.
Born Jewish in Kansas, Krug called her own appropriation of an Afro-Caribbean identity “deceptive” in a published article that caused a media firestorm.
In her September 3rd essay on the blog website “Medium” Krug wrote: “I have no identity outside of this. I have never developed one. I have to figure out how to be a person that I don’t believe should exist, and how, as that person, to even begin to heal any of the harm that I’ve caused.”
As an American-born Jewish woman, who moved to Israel at the age of 11 and who has spent my entire professional career as a Zionist educator and activist, I have prided myself on my dedication to working with Zionists of all skin colors and all ethnic backgrounds, including many African-American rabbis. So, I found this story more than just curious. It is truly tragic.
And I have some things I would like Jessica to know, one Jewish woman to another.
First, ancient Jewish wisdom calls the journey you started on September 3rd “tshuva” in Hebrew, which is usually defined as “return” and this time of year, the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah and concluding with Yom Kippur, is the time specifically chosen for penitence and atonement.
I find it to be more than a simple coincidence that you shared your story at this time of year and asked for forgiveness now.
There is a traditional Jewish formula for atonement that involves acknowledging the sin, asking for forgiveness, and vowing to never to commit this same sin again.
It is the last part that I wish to zero in on with you. You see, Jessica, how can you say you will not sin like this again if you fail to reconcile who you authentically are –a Jewish woman– by developing your personal Jewish identity?
I question whether you can accomplish developing your Jewish identity in America. You were unable to do it before, as a young person.
As addiction recovery experts have long taught, to be successful it is necessary to change “People, Places, and Things.”
So, I implore you, please consider coming home to Israel. I would be happy to introduce you to top Jewish scholars in Jerusalem, who will work with you to find answers to your questions about Judaism.
Here’s a roadmap for you to consider:
People: Scholars in traditional Jewish thought and practice
Places: Jerusalem the eternal capital of the Jewish people
Things: Jewish history and Jewish studies
Jessica, the Hebrew root word of the word I mentioned above, “tshuva,” is “shuv” also traditionally refers to Aliyah: going up, ascending, returning to the land of Israel (Shuva Yisrael).
It is time for you to rise up out of your despair and come home to Israel and there is no better time than now.
I read your essay, your pain and your depression is plain to see.
You need to be lifted up.
Israel and Zionism will lift you up and give you what you need!
As a Zionist activist, who has been an outspoken proponent of Aliyah and who has assisted Jews of all hues in making Aliyah, I offer to you my assistance and the full support of the movement I lead, Herut, a Zionist educational-activist organization with branches throughout the world, including in America.
Israel offers the sense of family and pride that I believe you have been searching for.
Israel is a magnificent Jewish achievement; its very existence is a modern miracle. Please let that magic touch you.
I can be reached through Herut’s US website https://www.herutna.org
Wishing you well and hoping to meet you soon in Israel,
Karma Feinstein Cohen is the Executive Director of World Herut. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and more information about Herut is available at https://www.herutna.org