1st generation Dominican-American Latina Orthodox Jewish convert (Jewminicana), Aliza, later discovered she had Sephardic & Ashkenazi ancestry. She is a writer, blogger, educator & speaker. Here are her thoughts on being mixed race, Hispanic & Jewish, focusing on identity, Judaism, Jews of colors, Latinos, diversity, race, ethnicity, conversion to Judaism, culture, multiculturalism, illness, disability, books, films, news & more….
(I was at home for both photos but yes, that's my hair uncovered. May you never suffer from the multiple conditions that cause my head, face, scalp to constantly hurt. I am likely one of the few women to get a heter for hair covering due to severe health problems.)
In high school and early college, I looked emaciated enough to earn the name "the Somalian." My first boss bought me lunch every day because she thought I couldn't afford to eat. I couldn't. Seriously, I still wore clothing from the girl's department.
But since 2011 when I had to go on the strongest painkiller I've ever taken to help me get my Ehlers Danlos to a manageable point, I have been obese. Possibly, the worst thing you can be if you have Ehlers Danlos. I have sprained my wrists and my ankles daily. I've subluxated my shoulders and my hips. I've fallen down and over just trying to walk and stand. I've twisted my knees. Thankfully, I have broken anything. And (hopefully) I haven't developed early on-set osteoarthritis that comes with Ehlers Danlos, wobbly joints and body parts and obesity.
Two years later, after already having gained 20 pounds on Motrin--I am considered intolerant to all NSAIDs now which is kinda funny when you have inflammation in all your joints--after my botched wisdom tooth extraction and 15 pounds on Prednisone for the allergies that flared up because, well, Ehlers Danlos invades your whole body and makes everything worst, I am two pounds away from having lost...
I have lost almost 50 pounds since January 2013.
If you had told me at 17 that one day I'd be obese, when I hated missing school because it meant also meant missing free breakfast and lunch and freedom from my very scary home life...well, I would have laughed in your face.
The first Dominican boy I liked in high school wouldn't date me because I was too skinny. He may have said skeletal. Rice and beans apparently hadn't hit me hard enough!* (His friend later asked me out but in doing so, also compared my thick, tight-curly then-long hair to pubic hair.)
I am so much stronger than I have ever been now. Sometimes, I think I'm stronger than I really am. Apparently, even though I was spacing it out throughout the day, well, working out three times a day or three hours a day is not something that my body does. Apparently, I was doing this because the endorphins are the best painkiller I've ever experienced in my life. They make me feel like Superman.
But after I collapsed into a chronic fatigue coma in my bed for two weeks, I'm taking it easier at the gym. Doctor's orders. Trainer's orders. Also, I threw up at the gym thanks to POTS. But my job is still the same.
I won't be coming back any time soon on a permanent basis though I am still trying to do what I can in my own way for the Jews and future converts who contact me from all over the world...at my own pace. I'm still posting articles and quotes and comments on my Facebook page.
2013...and it took long enough because I was first misdiagnosed in 2005 when my body pretty much shutdown like a computer gone awry is the year that I put my health first wholeheartedly. Because of that, I'm feeling stronger than I've ever felt.
Even though I've got to lose 10 pounds before I move from obese to overweight, I look strong. I have muscles I haven't had since I was 17. I can pick things up that I've never imagine I'd ever pick up again with my horrible motor skills. I can do more that I ever thought I would be able to do again.
And I've learned that there are things I will never be able to do again and if I can't find a way to do them differently, I need to accept it, move on and do what is right for this body. Because I am no longer than underweight high school girl.
I'm a 33-year-old woman with severe Ehlers Danlos Type 3, an amazing team of doctors and two gym memberships, an awesome trainer, a Weight Watchers membership and the most supportive husband, sisters and family and friends that that underweight high school girl could ever have imagined having in her life.
35 more pounds to go and maybe the next baby photo you see on this page will be a mini-me!
Thank you for your continued prayers.
Aliza Moriah bat Avraham & Sarah
Note/Update: I actually gained 75 pounds in a month and a half on that painkiller but I lost 15 as soon as I got off of it. Unfortunately, at the same time, a bout with allergic asthma caused me to be put on steroids and I gained it right back again. If the scale is right today, I may have just passed 50 pounds. Thank you for your support.
Okay, as if it wasn't shocking enough to find out that I was significantly English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish Catholic as in Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland and French when I thought I was strictly half Iberian Peninsula and half African in ancestry, Ancestry.com discovers yet another interesting tidbit.
I have always joked that I'm Ashkefardic. I'm Sephardic at heart. It is the tradition that feels like home to me. But I am married to an Ashkenazi husband and I converted through an Ashkenazi rabbi and well, SOME PEOPLE don't think I look Ashkenazi.
But apparently, 2% of my ancestry is Eastern European Jewry. Sure, it's just 2% but I think it shocked me more than finding out I was British, French or Italian. How in the world does a Dominican girl from NYC end up with ANY Eastern European ancestry. So far, I've uncovered one Polish ancestor and Italian ancestors and an Irish ancestor on my family tree but apparently, there will be more surprises along the way.
My husband and I were so certain that there was no possible way that I had Ashkenazi ancestry. And not just because I don't like bagels (can't chew them because of my damaged jaw) or lox (I prefer sushi). We just couldn't contemplate how complicated my ancestry actually is when you look at the statistics! I can't wait to look further in my family tree and uncover more family surprises!
This reminds me of when my niece Leyla was born and we hadn't gotten all the results back on our European ancestry. We were sure that she was taking after her Irish/Scottish/English/Native American father without having any clue that we had some of the same ancestry!
Here is Ancestry.com's update on my DNA genetic ethnicity test as of late October:
(My friend now likes to joke that I've lost all street cred as I am clearly WHITE if I'm 55% European. So, let me be clear. My mom is brown. Her mom is white with red hair. My Dad is white. My grandfather was black. The other one was so white they called him "Blanco" (white in Spanish). Nobody Ashkenazi ever thinks I'm white. I think it's the hair despite the epic Jewfros I've seen.
I am white (European-North & South), African, Native American and East and South Asian.
I am multiracial. And I am proud of every part of my heritage even though, well, most of my ancestors spent a lot of time trying to kill each other! (Note to ancestors: Really, not cool!)
If you want to know what I am, it's still easier to tell you what I'm not: Australian! I was really hoping Hugh Jackman and I had more in common than our sideburns.
Great Britain 9%+
Primarily located in:England, Scotland, Wales
Also located in:Ireland, France, Germany
Iberian Peninsula 31%
Primarily found in:Spain, Portugal
May also be found in:France,
Morocco, Algeria, Italy
Primarily found in:Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia
Also found in:France,
Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Croatia,
Bosnia, Romania, Turkey, Slovenia, Algeria, Tunisia
European Jewish 2%
Primarily found in:Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Israel
Also found in:Germany,
France, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia,
Ireland <1 span="">1>
Primarily found in:Ireland, Wales, Scotland
Also found in:France,
Ivory Coast/Ghana 10%
Primarily found in:Ivory Coast, Ghana
May also be found in:Togo,
Primarily located in:Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Republic
Also found in:Angola, Chad
Primarily found in:Nigeria
May also be found in:Niger,
Primarily found in:Senegal, Gambia
May also be found in:Guinea-Bissau,
Guinea, Mali, Mauritania
So after the whole Earl thing, my husband decided to refer to me only as Princess Aliza, Lady Aliza and Duchess Aliza and said that it explained my noble (read: holier-than-thou, I'm right, you're not, bossy) behavior. Not. Cool.
My friends and fans on Facebook on the other hand were confused because the current Earl of Medina is a British chap called Henry David Louis Mountbatten who probably doesn't want to give the title back to my family. Especially since my Earl's family basically gave it all up and went to establish what is now the Dominican Republic and left all the cool Spanish nobility stuff back in Spain (mostly). Le sigh. I wonder if Henry's a distant cousin? Anyone have his mobile number?
Yeah, it went to my head for a bit. I mean, I kinda wondered why there were streets named after my family in the Dominican Republic but since I can't tell what's north, south, west or south in the Dominican Republic when I visit...I hadn't really given it much thought. Funny enough though Franco Bido St. intersects with Jerusalem St. How thoughtful of my ancestors.
I had been trying forever to dig up information about my late great-grandmother's mother and given Spanish naming customs, I was given the last name Franco-Bido. But actually, the Franco-Bidos were so hoity toity that they didn't follow Spanish naming customs and they went by more prestigious "Franco Bido" dropping their mother's name most of the time.
So I found out via a 3rd to distant Turkish-Dominican cousin here in California (thanks to 23andMe.com) that my great-great-grandmother's name was actually the very French Emilia Deschamps but Deschamps wasn't passed on to her children born in the Dominican Republic since she married Dominican/Spanish nobility.
Emilia was no slouch herself. She was a poet. Her brothers Eugenio and Enrico were both writers and one was even Vice President of the Dominican Republic.
In fact, a Moroccan relative from Cueta was also Vice President of the Dominican Republic.
So how I'd end up all poor living in the ghetto that was Washington Heights? All the Franco money was divided up in the 1800s and nobody was thinking of me then. Seriously, people, think of your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren when you invest your money!
And so here are all the places I have to visit. And we're just talking about my MOTHER'S SIDE until I get my father to spit into a little tube.
ALIZA HAUSMAN'S WORLD TOUR
Let's start in the Caribbean where we will visit:
Dominican Republic: (a lot of these places are within Santiago)
Santo Domingo (check)
Santiago de los Caballeros (check)
Constanza, La Vega
Loma de Cabrera
San Francisco de Macoris
Los Llanos de Gurabo
Los Llanos, San Pedro de Macoris
San Jose de las Matas
Moca, Espaillat (named after my family)
(the first three really explain why I love rice, beans and plantains so much)
Santiago de Cuba
Turks and Caicos Islands
Terrebone, Les Moulins, Quebec
United States: New York, NY (check)
Port Charlotte, Florida
(like all the Basque places, Barcelona and more!)
Arena del Mar, Barcelona
Santander, Cantabria Estepona, Málaga Arenys de Mar, Barcelona Canary Islands Santos Espiritu y Pedro, Terrassa Monistrol de Catalonia, Barcelona San Baudillo De Llobregat, Barcelona
San Sebastían, Gipuzkoa (no idea how to pronounce that latter)
Cueta (now part of Spain)
I don't have specific areas for these, just the relatives from there:
Lonford, Ireland (O'Farrell)
England (Renville, Sterling)
Portugal (Gomez/Gomes, Silva)
Philippines (tada, Asian-Spanish fusion!)
And yet to be ruled out:
And it would seem based on my cousin-matches and family names that Argentina, Germany, Norway, Austria, Brazil and the Netherlands will soon be definitively added to the list!