If there is one thing that annoys me greatly about doing what I do, it’s that I know so much more about Jewish history and culture than so many Jews. It’s very concerning to me. Yes, I spend some time reading and talking to rabbis etc, but I do that because this stuff is important to me and I believe that in order to advocate effectively, these are things I need to know. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I actually know, and the more concerning it is to me, that I know so much more than some of the people who NEED to know this stuff. Yes we are all busy and yes life is hard and time-consuming, but these are things that directly affect you and the way you see the world. In learning about you, I have learned much more about me.
I get it, it is very easy to say ” I’m Jewish because my parents were, just look at my last name.” But if you don’t understand what that means in the context of the story of the Jewish people, you will end up being a hindrance to your people rather than a benefit. Ask yourself why you would rather take the easy path when that’s never been the way of your people. Ask yourself why this idea that you should act the way European white people think Jews act. It’s so easy to just fit in, to just be more than “passing.” But I think deep down you know that’s not genuine, it’s not real. Being Jewish doesn’t mean saying Tikkun olam all the time, it doesn’t mean you eat chicken on Friday night or turn off your phone on Saturday, it’s so much deeper and important than any of that, but it’s up to you to make that call.
You might be wondering, what the hell does this Indian guy know about actually being Jewish? I know that being a marginalised, demonized minority who is exiled from your ancestral land and forced to live among those who would prefer you either assimilated or died sucks. I know that having to be better than everyone at everything just to be treated equally sucks. I know that people making fun of your “strange and mysterious and funny traditions sucks. I know that busting my ass to break stereotypes and be successful is hard and it sucks. I know that seeing the world through a European lens when you are not really European, really sucks. That’s what I know.
The truth is that I am not Jewish, but I am an indigenous person who has experienced a lot of similiar things. It motivated me to study your peoples history, culture and spirituality in order to understand my own, and I am hopefully intelligent enough to extrapolate my experiences and juxtapose them with yours in order to be more empathetic. The lessons I learned while continuing to unpack my own identity are helping me to help you unpack yours.
I am not trying to tell you how to be Jewish, I am telling you that YOU as Jew, have to decide what being Jewish means to you and to use JEWISH points of reference when doing it. Understand that your identity is YOURS, not your parents or your grandparents – they have their own identity to worry, about and while you may share many things, this is a path that only you can walk.
Anyway, don’t get hung up on language, or religion – those things are part of what you should understand but start with seeing yourself as who you are, through a lens that isn’t ruined by someone elses perspectives.