Saratoga Jewish Community Arts kicks off its Fall 2021 season with discussion of the documentary, Little White Lie, by filmmaker Lacey Schwartz Delgado who tells her personal, provocative story while raising questions of identity, family, race, and the mistakes of our parents. The SJCA series is made possible by a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY and sponsorship by Temple Sinai of Saratoga Springs.
Lacey Schwartz Delgado grew up in a typical upper middle class Jewish family in Woodstock, NY, with loving parents and a strong sense of her identity, despite the open questions from those around her about how a white girl could have such dark skin. She believed her family’s explanation that her looks were inherited from her dark-skinned Sicilian grandfather. However, something in her gut made her unsettled.
At age 18, she finally confronted her mother and learned the truth. Her biological father was not the man who raised her, but a black man, known to her and her family over the years, with whom her mother had an affair. Lacey doesn’t acknowledge her newly discovered black identity with her white family. When she entered college and its social scene, the looks she received from her new African American friends led her to rethink how she had viewed herself. It took more than another decade to begin to reconcile the hidden pieces of her life.
“After growing up Jewish in a white cultural setting,” says Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of Saratoga Jewish Community Arts, “it must have been totally disorienting to the young Schwartz Delgado to confront her biracial reality; being half black in our society is a category of black race, when it could just as well have been that half white be a category of white race.”
In the last few decades, the conversation in the Jewish community — and the amount of education Jews are given about diversity in the community — has changed dramatically. “Many of us have grown up where being Jewish was synonymous with being white. We didn’t even talk about us being white. But it was… out in society, synonymous with whiteness,” Schwartz Delgado noted. “There’s a lot of conversations about the Black American community and the Jewish American community, and it’s almost like we forget that there are many who are living with both of that,” Schwartz Delgado pointed out. “We’re talking about how those two communities integrate; well, how do we internally integrate those identities [within the Jewish community]?”
For Schwartz Delgado, it took having difficult conversations with her family to come to terms with her story and be able to create art about the huge questions surrounding her identity. Raising her twin boys Jewish in an interfaith household as wife of Hudson Valley Congressman, Antonio Delgado, she says, “I think I’m very similar to a lot of other young Jewish families who are just trying to figure it out; how do I reconcile where I came from with what I connect to individually?”
In the years after the release of Little White Lie, “…we still hear from people on a daily basis who connect deeply to the story,” Schwartz Delgado observed. That includes Jews of color like her, but it includes many more people who are simply grappling with their identity or who relate to the coming-of-age story in the film.
The Zoom panel discussion of Little White Lie will be on September 26 at 7 P.M. Little White Lie is available for viewing on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
Registration is required and is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org