Brooke Plotnick / by Michael Falco

Who is Brooke Plotnick?

Brooke Plotnick was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, about an hour outside of Richmond. She attended college in Pennsylvania before moving back to Virginia. Her mother is a Christian woman from Kentucky and her father a Jewish man from Connecticut. She was married to an Indian man and together they have a bi-racial daughter. Brooke is forty-four years old. 

Excerpt from interview with Brooke Plotnick by Whitney Dow, 2017

Plotnick: [14:34:04] Yes. Yes. Let’s see. So my dad is Jewish and my mother is—a Christian religion from Kentucky. I’m not sure which one. But my parents met in Charlottesville and she left her husband for my dad. Her parents took decades to finally sort of accept him. His parents weren’t all that welcoming to her. They weren’t as surprised by it. I think, on some level, they were glad he finally settled down. But on her side, we experienced a lot of animosity. My grandmother, in particular, was very rude to my sister. Because my sister looked like my dad. And I think she just resented this otherness, that she couldn’t anticipate coming into her culture. It’s really strange, when I think about it, but—so I just grew up with it.

Q: And you’re sure that this is because he was Jewish, not because he had broken up the marriage? Was that definite or is that mixed up together? How is that—

Plotnick: [14:35:25] That’s a good question. So we’re trying—I’m not sure, actually, if the otherness was entirely because of the Jewish versus the breaking up of this anticipated thing. My mom had married her high school sweetheart. And this was a really big change. So I can’t really say for sure. But simply because I look like my mother and my sister looks more like my dad and she was rejected in a way that I wasn’t, I kind of think that it—and my sister has expressed this a lot to me, recently, that things that were said to her really indicated that it was a rejection of him and, I think, by extension of the faith, as well, which is kind of funny, because he never practiced. [Laughs]

Q: So tell me a little about your identity. How would you sort of like rank the hierarchy of your identity, the things that make you who you are?

Plotnick: [14:36:28] How I would rank the hierarchy of my identity. Probably, when someone looks at me, they think, white, they think, vegetarian—[whispers] I’m not at all—they think, probably, immature. Because like I said, I’m forty-four and I’m short and I’m kind of loud, so I seem a little younger. But I identify—and I never did, growing up, because my dad is a quite vocal atheist. And my mom just kept religion close to her chest. I identify currently as a half- Jew. After graduate school, I worked in a synagogue preschool for a year or two and really fell in love with the holiday traditions, despite the fact that I never practiced them growing up. And actually, in the decade since—or the year since Donald Trump was elected, the more I see of people othering Jewish people, the more I feel like I identify with—like proud to identify with a group that’s being treated badly. Because it’s not fair. And it’s my heritage, even if it isn’t something I was raised with as a child. It’s where I come from.

Interview Transcript