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Of Skullcaps And Asshats

ryan kippah
Ryan wearing a kippah

I never wanted to be Jewish.

I never wanted to speak for a people who are not mine by blood, even if I have friends who are as close to me as family. But somehow I ended up doing both. Make no mistake, I don’t believe I am suddenly a Jew because I put on a kippah, and I do not think I have the right to speak for a people who undergo this stuff daily with no respite. I just know that to the world, when I put on the kippah, I suddenly change. I know that if I simply take off the kippah I can go back to “fitting in” but I am refusing to do it because its dishonest.

I am pale-skinned for a Metis. When I’m wearing my glasses, I can easily “pass” as a “white Canadian”, but the bigotry towards my people almost always manifests when people find out I am in fact an Indian. I have now seen it’s even worse for a Jew, because people assume that all these asshats feel comfortable being ignorant in the light of day, not just behind closed doors.

I didn’t set out last week to do anything more than show solidarity with my Jewish friends, other than perhaps make a point that Canada isn’t the Canada it purports to be. I assumed I would probably be enlightened, but what I learned actually shocked me. I am not being heroic, I am not doing anything that anyone with a conscience wouldn’t do. I think that the world in general, but especially Canada, would be a better place if we tried harder to see the world through other peoples eyes. Especially people who undergo true marginalization.

So now for the fun stuff, what I saw and experienced so far.

First off, people tend to ask really personal questions. One woman asked me if I was circumcised, which took me aback as I didn’t expect questions about my penis! I generally don’t talk about my penis or to it actually; even though it tends to make most of my important decisions, it stays under cover. Why someone would ask me if I was circumcised, I will never know considering the fact that Catholics and many other Canadians actually circumcise their kids. I answered her by saying “ Well Indians have some extra so we don’t mind cutting off the tip. It makes things more fair.”

I also noticed that I get a large number of glares, something that actually bothered me more than I thought it would. As much as I look like an large angry man, I generally am friendly towards most people, so it was a shock to have people I didn’t know glare at me. It didn’t make me defensive, it made me angry. I literally wanted to ask them “Do you have a problem with me?”

I had people tell me they didn’t think I should wear something so offensive, which I found odd. I have some T shirts that even I think are offensive, yet nobody in Canada has ever said a word to me, even when I wore a T shirt with a woman in a hijab saying “ Thank you for not provoking my uncontrollable lusts.” Or “Save the trees, wipe your ass with an owl.” So can someone explain to me why a simple cap with some Hebrew on it is considered to be so damn offensive?

The last one is the most annoying, the “reasonable” guy who explains how he doesn’t hate Jews, he hates Zionists, and the Rothschilds and the people who control the banks and the media who happen to be Jewish. I met two of those guys, the asshats not the Rothschilds. On the asshat scale they are about a 10.5. I have no doubt they tell themselves they aren’t bigots, but what they say is every bit as offensive to me as the one guy who told me I was a genocidal baby killer. The odd thing is that wearing a kippah doesn’t mean you support Israel. I have debated Jewish people like Lucas Koerner who wore a kippah and hates Israel. I wish that kid would walk through one of these neighbourhood wearing his kippah. Maybe he would understand why the world needs Israel.

I am halfway through the week, the week I decided to wear a Kkippah. I have had some good experiences but they have been vasty outweighed by ignorance and outright bigotry. I think people are unaware of the bigotry. I have to believe that this is the case because if they knew and still said nothing , I would have to say they are asshats.

I am not going to stop calling out racism and bigotry and I am going to shine a light on what I believe to be the last “acceptable” form of prejudice.

Update: You can hear an interview with me speaking about my experiences wearing a kippah over here.

42 thoughts on “Of Skullcaps And Asshats”

  1. I love that you’re doing this, it’s so important to have non-Jewish people back us up when we talk about the hostility we face. Thank you.

      1. Absolutely; unity would be ideal. But I’ve found, as a member of various marginalised groups, that a lot of people really only pay attention when someone speaks up for us from outside, so I’m always appreciative when someone does that as well as Ryan does.

        1. i dont care if all jewish people back israel

          i just want the ones that dont, to keep their filthy yaps shut

          1. Succinct and accurate! Also if they keep their mouths shut, they won’t look so foolish when they, too, have to run to Israel to escape the people they thought were their friends.

  2. Norman_In_New_York

    This brings to mind the Hollywood classic “Gentleman’s Agreement,” in which Gregory Peck posed as a Jew to expose antisemitism. Every so often, the world needs a reminder of the oldest hatred within the hearts of the respectably civilized so that people of conscience can stand up for what is right.

  3. Bracha Barbara Goldman

    Thank you Ryan. As a Canadian Jew who made aliyah 39 years ago, and lives in Beersheba, I really appreciate your gesture. It saddens me that in Canada recently, anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head again.

  4. thank you ryan

    maybe we readers can pay you back by dave posting a link to one of the causes for the first nations that you support, where we can send donations

    1. Ryan Bellerose

      Walt, I work with a group I helped found called Calgary United With Israel, it does work here in the native community as well as holds pro israel events and builds bridges with the Native communities nearby. http://www.cuwi.ca

  5. I’ve taken to wearing a kippa also.People who know me say i look good wearing it.No one has bothered me either.The fact that my Father is Jewish and my Mother is American but of German ancestry she converted to Judaism about 2 yrs before even meeting my Father so she converted on her own a good conversion thats acceptable in Israel.Actually she’s very orthodox my father not so.The only reason i bring this up is because people who know me know i’m Jewish because of keeping Kosher and Shabbos. Anyways i really don’t look too Jewish with Blond hair and blue eyes.Also I’m pretty big 6’61/2” and weigh about 327lbs.After reading Ryan article i decided to wear my kippa at all times.I haven’t had any problems

    1. ahad_ha_amoratsim

      Israel sends our community a Shaliach for a two year term. The one we had a few years ago was Israeli born, big, blond, blue eyed, with so called Aryan features. And Orthodox.

    2. Hey Steven, That’s a very inspirational story. If you’re interested in Learning more about Judaism (Sounds like you know tons already), let me know I’m a teacher and have lots of contacts in various cities around the world

      1. Thanks Zvi i go to Shul it has a very good Sephardic Rabbi.But it has majority Ashkenazim.It’s similar or slightly more religious then a Young Israel.

  6. I understand your reasons for doing so. The more antisemitism I see, the more I get involved. I have some faint Jewish ancestry (my grandma was from a family that converted to catholicism) and I was always interested and emotionally involved. I read what I could about Jewish history and culture, but never went to synagogue. I learned some Hebrew a couple of years ago.
    I experienced some nasty antisemitism at my waitress job a few years ago, though it wasn’t directed at me. I started openly defending Jewish tourisits who were visiting there, talking to them in hebrew and asking coworkers what is the problem. Their response was predictable – “your people” spoken with a sneer, following me and telling Auschwitz jokes for 10 straight minutes, looks of disgust. I didn’t last long there. I didn’t even try to explain that technically I’m not Jewish, I just thought “screw it, they are my people, not you morons”.
    What’s happening today all around the world is even worse. I get abused on the internet on a daily basis for demanding proof of wild accusations against Israel. I read all the news every day, I went to pro-Israel rally and I started going to synagogue and to Jewish group meetings. I’m really considering officially converting to Judaism even though I’m a catholic-raised atheist. But I just can’t stand this situation. I feel like I should take this step and officially make myself Jewish since I get the abuse every day anyway.

    1. ahad_ha_amoratsim

      Good on you.
      If it was your maternal grandmother, by the way, then technically you ARE Jewish, at least according to Jewish law.

      1. It actually was a mother of my mother, but I don’t know if her mother was Jewish or was it only her father. I’d have to dig somewhere in archives, if they weren’t destroyed in a war. Complicated process.

        1. ahad_ha_amoratsim

          If your mother’s mother was Jewish, then according to Jewish law so was your mother, and so were you, even if there had been a conversion to another religion somewhere in there. Which means you are considered Jewish according to Jewish law (although best to check with a local Orthodox rabbi). Welcome to the tribe! You’d be amazed how many people have found out they were Jewish by mentioning
          in passing that they had a Jewish maternal grandmother.

  7. Ryan – Thank You!
    The kippa on your head won’t make you Jewish but the love in your heart will.…
    You are a Proud, Righteous, Indigenous, Pale-Skinned Metis disguised as a Jew,
    A Lion in Sheep clothing – We love you…

  8. That is amazing and I really respect you for it. I’ve never experienced it personally because I’m very secular (and female) but I can imagine. Just don’t go to Calgary!

  9. Ryan, you’re a Mensch and a Scholar! Thank you for doing what you do, for bravely speaking the truth. I’ve been reading your stuff for a while and you never fail to both entertain AND get the point across. I watched (listened to) an hour or so clip about your trip to Israel. I think it was a audio interview? Anyway, I got a huge personal kick out of it because a very good family friend was one of your tour guides. I laughed my A` off, because the likelihood was beyond remote. I think you simply said he was a “good guy”.

    Keep it up. Be safe. PS. do not iron the kippah. ;-))

    1. Ryan Bellerose

      if you were talking about shalom, he was a good guy, and a funny one, he was also a great tour guide.

      1. lol. Actually it was a Mr. Sokolof and I can’t recall if you used his first name in English or Hebrew (he speaks very quietly, and he mumbles when he talks (imho). BUT.. he’s pretty bright) You gave him a 2 second “honorary mention”. Which made me laugh at how tiny the planet is for about a 1/2 an hour.

        I think the audio track I listened to was on a youtube channel by israelmuse? Pretty sure it was a talk with a slide show as opposed to a video.

        PS. I had a good Arapaho friend* on HuffPo when I used to comment who’s as staunch a supporter of Israel as one could imagine; and very knowledgeable. He once sent me this link about the PLO and the Soviets which goes a long way to explaining how we got where we are now :http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2007/08/how-the-kgb-cre.html

        As a Jew currently in North America, some of us have always felt a kinship with your people. I can’t express how heartening it is each and every time to see that kinship returned and respected. A thank you.

        PS. You could get a kippah with the Metis (infinity?) symbol. It’d be all encompassing, and… it’d be FUN!

        1. I actually have asked a friend to knit me a kippah with an infinity symbol on it, lol great minds. Mr sokolof was awesome btw, he took me to herodion, I wish I had had more time in the gush

  10. Hi ryan

    Thank you so much for doing this. it means a lot. I experience discrimination almost every day ( I live in Calgary) I get it on all sides. I am the other spectrum of what most people think what a jewish person should “look” like I ‘m black but unbeknownst to me I always thought i “looked”Jewish until I moved here and was told otherwise . When you look at me the first thing that comes to mind is definitely not Jewish, but to show it outwardly i have taken to wearing the biggest Magen David ( star of David) I can get my hands on ( without being tacky) and I wear it on Full display. I get the looks and questions and snide comments.. I also get people asking me why am I wearing a A Jewish star and I simply tell them it’s because I am Jewish. then the truckload of dislike usually rolls in but like you I will continue to do my part. Share my thoughts and help reveal the truth for what it is . Shabbat shalom!

    1. I think black jews (like beta israel) look distinctively jewish, personally. Though there’s some difference in melanin due to maternal admixture Aschenazi/Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews are genetically much alike.
      Shabbat shalom!

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