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Afraid to Admit we’re Jewish?

October 12, 2012 – 8:57 am11 Comments
David Greene (Brendan Fraser) meets his new roommate Chris Reece (Chris O'Donnell)

David Greene (Brendan Fraser) becomes uneasy about admitting he’s Jewish in the 1992 film, School Ties.

By Chaya Lucas
On a particular night at a particular bar in Bondi, my Israeli friends and I were having drinks. A rather drunk man decided to hug and kiss one of my Israeli friends (let’s call him Tzahal), weird in itself but not entirely unexpected. This prompted the obligatory “Hi, how are you?” from my friend. Tzahal has a very thick accent that he’s never lost or even diminished it since he left Israel, which makes me proud. Upon hearing his accent, the drunken man then asked the question that all of my Israeli friends hate: “Where are you from?” I noticed Tzahal take a step back before simply responding “Israel.” That one word that has so much meaning – “Israel”. You could hear a sense of fear and pride intertwined with his response. In follow up to this, the drunk man then said the second question that both myself and most of my friends fear, “Are you Jewish?” Another step back, then the response of “Yes.”

This whole encounter brought into sharp view the fear that I see on my friends’ faces, and more importantly, on mine. Just last week, in the middle of the CBD, I was spat on for being Jewish by a crazy man screaming about Israeli apartheid and oppression. This fear makes me wear my Judaism on my sleeve and I not so intelligently, take a step forward to answer that question. Maybe I’m an adrenalin junkie, but I embrace my fear, and this makes me step forward. I refuse to let my fear control me; I wear my Magen David with pride and I will always be the person waving the Israeli flag so high whenever I get the chance.

Fear is something that we live with on a daily basis. Fear of being too Jewish, fear of being a proud Jew, fear of being recognised as different. So does this mean the most anti-Semitic people are in fact ourselves? Most of us have seen John Safran drunk in drag on TV screaming “F**k you Yeshiva”, and we recognised a level of fear for ourselves. We’ve all wanted to scream and shout and prove that we’re the same as others but deep down most of the times, it’s only ourselves we’re trying to prove it to.

One of the most beautiful things about being Jewish is recognising that while we are different, growing to embrace that which makes us different is one of the greatest struggles of all. It seems that as Jews we are hiding that piece of us that we dare not show the world. Many of my friends work in secular businesses, and when it comes to eating out with the team, they simply say they are vegetarian to avoid having to eat treif meat. Same with Shabbat; every Monday the question is asked; “What did you do on the weekend?” The standard response is usually “Not much, just dinner with friends and family.” The piece of ourselves that has Shabbat dinner or keeps kosher gets hidden from the world because of fear, fear that people wont understand, or worse, fear that they don’t like us simply because we’re Jews.

Many Jews out there will say they’re not religious simply because they fear themselves. Maybe sometimes it’s easier to say you’re not religious, but most of the people I know who say that also scream out the Sh’ma on yomtov and daven their hardest on Yom Kippur. It’s fear that leads us to hide ourselves from the light and say we’re not religious. It’s fear that leads us to accept compromise on our values, and it’s fear that leads us to take a step back before answering that question… “Are You Jewish”

We all wear scars from the past and we’ve all felt a touch, even a slight one, of anti-Semitism in our lives. The question we need to ask is whether we accept it and let it fuel our fear, or do we stand proud and say “I am Jewish.”

Chaya Lucas is a 28 year old dare to be proud Jew. She grew up all over Australia and loves to study Israeli politics. She likes to write articles on Jewish observance, community issues and anti-Semitism.

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