WSW: Peace Service Speaker is "Really" and "Proudly" Jewish

Mar 16, 2017

Native American veterans join an interfaith ceremony at the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.
Credit David Goldman, The Associated Press / AP

May Ye says she’s not typical for the Jewish community, but she says that should help her “dig deep into social justice work” as a rabbi. Ye is the keynote speaker for the Kalamazoo Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice’s 15th Annual Peace Service.

Ye is of Chinese descent, her father is Jewish, but she grew up in a secular home. Ye explored her Jewish roots, and embraced the religion. She’s a piano performance major at Western Michigan University. But when Ye graduates next month, she’s planning to attend rabbinical school.

But Ye says she faces questions about whether she’s “really Jewish,” and has been rejected from entering synagogues. Ye says it’s rare to meet other Chinese Jews, especially when they aren’t adopted. But Ye says the majority of students at the rabbinical school she’s applied too are “Jews of Color.”

November’s election left Ye feeling distraught, but now she feels an obligation to be active. She was one of the organizers of a rally against Islamophobia held in Bronson Park in February.

Ye was among those who gathered in North Dakota to protest a new oil pipeline planned near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. She is also a member of organization called Jewish Voices for Peace, which supports the rights of Palestinians Ye says she favors a “two state” solution for Israel and Palestine. She says there are similarities between Palestinians and Native Americans. Ye says both are fighting for land that they had taken away.

Calling herself “proudly Jewish” Ye says being critical of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic. “I’m going to be a rabbi for heaven’s sake.”