A boy in my daughter’s class today announced that she was “really Jewish”. Instead of filling her with a sense of pride, my sensitive and sweet and loving six year old spent the remainder of the night in tears.
“I’m not so Jewish, right? I can be anything, right?”
I told her over and over that she could be anything, that being a good friend was the most important thing she could be. For goodness’ sake… she hasn’t been to Hebrew School since October. The most Jewish she’s gotten in 2016 was eating a slice of challah that our Catholic friend made from a recipe on the Internet. On a Wednesday.
It is the most visceral reaction I’ve had to anti-Semitism. A blond-haired, blue-eyed Irish Catholic six year old caused my daughter and I both to cry today. For her, it was being labeled as “other” and “less than”. For me, it was the crushing realization that no matter how far away from the shtetl we roam, it is the only “safe” place for people like my kids and I. Jews in our own community. Sure, insularity has it’s downfalls.
So does bullying.
On the eve of a holiday about freedom, I’ve never felt more imprisoned by centuries-old stigma and hidden pride. I knew she’d be exposed to hatred at some point, but I never thought it would deliver a sucker punch so early on in a relatively happy childhood existence.
I’m really Jewish, and it’s not pride.