KU senior Jade Groobman had long been interested in the many misconceptions that exist about Jewish identity. And as an Asian American Jew herself, she experienced first-hand what she describes as a disconnect between the U.S.’s larger Jewish population and Jewish community members of color. Now, through her research on the experiences of Jews of Color, she’s working to shed light on the variety of Jewish experiences and how to best create anti-racist Jewish spaces.
“As I have learned and grown to embrace my intersecting identities, I felt that it was important to conduct research that would hopefully benefit the communities that I have always loved,” she said.
We caught up with Jade, who told us about the motivation of her research, the class that helped her choose her major and her plans to continue her social justice work after graduating.
Where are you from? And why did you decide to come to KU?
I’m from Boulder, Colorado! I originally was dead-set on going to school in Washington, D.C. I had a roommate and a dorm picked out and everything, but my dad said I had to come visit KU before I could officially commit to my other school. After just spending one day in Lawrence on KU’s campus, something about it just clicked and I committed to KU within the week!
Why did you choose your major and minors?
I chose my major and my two minors because the course material perfectly aligns with my passions, interests, and career goals. During my freshman year orientation, I remember being asked during an ice breaker what major we would create if we could major in anything. I said that if I could create my own path, I would want to major in Social Justice. Unfortunately, that isn’t an actual major, but the combination of my major and minors are pretty close!
All of my freshman year I didn’t have a major, and wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to dedicate the next four years to. During my spring semester, I took WGSS 101 and loved everything about the course. It was the first time since I started college that I truly connected to a college course. After that semester I officially declared my major in WGSS.
What are your research interests and why did you choose them?
My research seeks to understand the experiences of Jews of Color and how to best create actively anti-racist Jewish spaces. I am particularly interested in researching the intersection of racial identity with another identity. As an Asian American Jew myself, I knew from personal experience that a disconnect exists between the larger Jewish population in the U.S. and their Jew of Color community members. As I have learned and grown to embrace my intersecting identities, I felt that it was important to conduct research that would hopefully benefit the communities that I have always loved.
What is one thing you think everyone should know about your research project or research interests?
If people only take one thing away from my research, I hope that it’s the knowledge that whiteness does not define Judaism and that Jews of Color are an extremely valuable part of the Jewish community.
What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?
One of the biggest benefits is that you’re always learning something new. There are so many passionate students at KU who want to find ways to share their interests and knowledge, and it’s really cool to be able to learn from your friends and peers.
Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you?
I’d like to give a shout out to Professor Sarah Deer who serves as my mentor for this project. Professor Deer is the best mentor I could ever ask for, and I am so grateful for her support and guidance. I have learned so much from her, and I truly wouldn’t be able to do this work without her. I’d also like to give a shoutout to Sam Kendrick, who was a graduate student in the WGSS department my freshman and sophomore year. Sam’s WGSS 101 course was the reason I chose my major, and her Politics of Physical Appearance course helped me solidify my research interests in racial identity.
What would you tell your freshman self?
You’re never stuck in any situation and nothing is permanent, embrace the change!
What do you want to do when you graduate?
When I graduate, I’d really like to work in any position that allows me to increase the presence of social justice in the space. Ideally, I would like to find ways to help others become involved and learn more about how to be an activist and ally to marginalized communities.
What motivates you?
The potential that a more just and equitable world can exist is one of my biggest motivators. Knowing that there are steps that I can take to make a difference, no matter how big or small, is really motivating to me.