FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Iraqis in Pajamas frontwoman Loolwa Khazzoom, whose mother was a Jew by choice, passionately calls for an end to anti-convert hostility, in the band’s new single, releasing on the Jewish holiday of Shbu’oth (Shavuot).
On May 24, in honor of the Jewish holy day honoring Ruth, a Moabite convert to Judaism, Iraqis in Pajamas band releases, “The Convert’s Quest.”
Seattle, WA – While Judaism forbids proselytization, due to historical persecution by Christianity and Islam, and while rabbis are required to turn away a prospective convert three times, to ensure sincerity, Judaism actively embraces those who pursue conversion – with an injuction that once someone converts, that person is simply a “Jew,” not a “convert.” In addition, the most famous convert to Judaism was Ruth, a Moabite woman whom Judaism teaches will be the ancestor of the long-awaited Messiah. Not only that, but Ruth did not do the ritual immersion in the miqwah (mikveh) – which today is required by Orthodox Jewish law, in order to be considered a verified convert.
Despite these and additional considerations, there has been a trend of anti-convert hostility, with Jewish community members claiming that converts “are not real Jews” – in particular, those who converted through denominations that do not require immersion in the miqwah. As a result, those attempting to convert to Judaism, and those who have converted, may find themselves facing hostility, rejection, and even outright refusal to perform a conversion.
Iraqis in Pajamas singer, songwriter, and bass player Loolwa Khazzoom is the daughter of an Iraqi Jew on one side and a Jew-by-choice on the other side – making her both an heir to one of the most ancient Jewish communities and ethnicities, as well as a first-generation born Jew. With this unique vantage point, she has first-hand experience in the fluidity of Jewish identity and the key role that converts play in awakening and transmitting the heart, soul, and passion of Judaism. Disheartened by the negative treatment of Jewish converts – behavior that, ironically, flies in the face of Jewish law, history, and tradition, Khazzoom wrote “The Convert’s Quest,” referencing key points that challenge the anti-convert trend, from a Jewish lens.
While it is not explicitly mentioned in the song, one of Khazzoom’s chief concerns is the particular struggle facing people of color attempting to convert to Judaism. Being black or brown often is seen as being divergent from “Jewish,” despite the fact that Jews originated in West Asia and lived in the Asian and African continents for thousands of years before embarking on the European continent. In other words, being a light-skinned Jew, ironically, is itself the marker of conversion (as well as violence) somewhere in a person’s Jewish lineage – so who are light-skinned Jews to reject people of color seeking conversion to Judaism?
Listen to The Convert’s Quest here. Get hi-res photos, and find out more about Iraqis in Pajamas, on the band’s press page. Lyrics, endorsements, and additional info about the band and musicians below.
לך לך מארצך
The convert’s quest
The most gut-wrenching
Act of faith
All you know
All you love
All you are
To follow your soul
No matter the cost
Leaving lands paradigms family community
To Become Who you are meant to Be
A Living quest of purity truth passion nobility
And vulnerable authenticity
Amidst a world encouraging us to be
And play it safe
Go along with the crowd
But you have said NO
So that you can say yes
To the Gd of your understanding
Who shines brightly through
The Light of your Being
As a beacon for others
Staggering around in the darkness
To follow their quest
Of their own souls
If they would just
Stop look and listen
Mother of the משׁיח
Your Gd will be my Gd
Gd of the עברים
Those who cross over
Those on the convert’s quest
The Sarah and Abraham of our time
Stepping out on faith
Crossing the river Into uncertainty
Toward the Promised Land
The most Jewish Jews of all
Loolwa is a force of nature. It’s no surprise to us that…her courageous heart expresses itself so eloquently in the hurricane of her gritty music. – Deva Premal & Miten, Billboard chart-topping musicians
Loolwa Khazzoom is a brilliant lyricist and a dedicated artist, with the ability to teach through her art. Loolwa and her band, Iraqis in Pajamas, bring deeply personal truth through song and lyric and make us think through our own human reaction, through their profound and often cathartic performances. We need more of this! We need more art that makes us think in this turbulent world. Loolwa is the pearl in the oyster of a nation in great need of more awareness and enlightened thinking. – Lara Lavi, Grammy Award-winning musician
About Iraqis in Pajamas
In turn vulnerable and angry, haunting and inspiring, Seattle-area band Iraqis in Pajamas disarms audiences, opening them to deep contemplation about trauma, healing, and transformation. With songs in English, Judeo-Arabic, and Hebrew, the band has a unique sound – an innovative blend of ancient Iraqi Jewish prayers, alternative rock, and personal storytelling about topics as varied as cancer, domestic violence, racism, mental illness, street harassment, family caregiving, and national exile.