I am an orthodox Jewish woman and it’s something I’m proud of. I love my religion with all its goodness and flaws. There were many times during my challenges that my faith was the only thing that kept me from falling apart. I want to talk about something more uncomfortable though. I want to tell you how it feels to be a religious Jew in a world where antisemitism is rampant, shown openly or otherwise. I also want to ask some difficult questions.
I know I may seem different to you, strange even. We look different, we keep mostly to ourselves and basically live in our own little bubble. I understand you don’t “get” us. But I don’t understand why we deserve the hatred directed at us.
Now, before you start to object and say that no one hates us, I will explain to you how I feel in the country I live in. I don’t always feel safe. I always feel the need to go with another person when I venture in unfamiliar places. And while some of it *may* be in my head, I cannot count how many times I had dirty stares directed at me. Or how many times “dirty Jew” was muttered under someone’s breath when I passed by.
I’m trying to understand why I am “dirty”. I do shower every day so it cannot be that. I am a person just like you. A person with feelings, thoughts, desires and fears like any other human being. I am a good mother to my children. I try to be a good person but I have my flaws just like everyone else.
Why is my religion held against me? Why is every story happening in my ultra religious circles being spread out for all to see to criticize and to mock? Such stories happen everywhere.
Even if you don’t understand all of our rituals or they don’t make sense to you is no reason to make us feel less than. I know there are a lot of decent people out there that respect everyone regardless of religion, color or race. But that still doesn’t take away the fact that we are feeling the hate left and right. it’s not that hard to smile at every person you see, even if they are different. I don’t ask for much. I just want to be able to feel as safe as any other person out there. Not to feel scared that I, as a visibly orthodox Jewish woman, will be attacked verbally or looked at with disdain. I don’t deserve that. We all don’t deserve that.
These are some hard questions which will probably be tough to hear. But the biggest question of all is: why is everyone afraid of “different”? We are, after all, very much the same.
It’s Friday morning. My favorite day of the week is coming soon. Friday afternoon is hectic,with all the last minute preparations going on. Food warmed up? Check. Kids all showered and washed their hair? Check. Table set for Friday night dinner? Check. Candles prepared? Check.
The time for lighting the Sabbath candles is approaching. As I light the candles, peace descends upon the house like a sweet, soft blanket. All mundane matters are put aside for 24 hours. Electronics and gadgets are put away, not to be seen until Saturday night after sundown. It’s my time to focus on the things that really matter, like family, without the distraction of cell phones, computers or tablets. When my daughter talks to me, I actually listen with attention.
After candle lighting, I take the time to sit on the couch with my daughter and we talk about what she learned in school that week. And when she shows me her artwork I actually look at it and not pretend to like it so I could get back to my screen. I treasure that time with her. Not much later the men come home and we eat the one and only dinner together as a family with no distractions. It’s beautiful. The men sing and the food is delicious. It’s time to find out what the kids are thinking and feeling. There are no phones ringing, no social media to escape to, just being in the moment with the people you love.
After the meal, I actually have time to read real magazines, not virtual ones. I love the feel of paper but sadly, the lure of the virtual world takes me away from the pleasure of old fashioned reading.
The next day is more of the same. I can sleep in a little, then we join my family for the next meal. We sit together instead of chatting on Whatsapp. My children get to spend time with the grandparents and can update them about their week.
The afternoon is spend napping and looking at old family albums and just being together. This bonding time keeps us strong from week to week. As sundown approaches, I get a little sad. I love my sabbath. I know I’m way too addicted to technology and I’m sure my children suffer as a result. But I await my little peace of weekly heaven and know that this is what keeps the fabric of our family life together. I would not give this up for the world. I’m not sure I would be able to do this voluntarily if my religion didn’t (demand) it because of my strong dependence on electronics but since I got this gift of the day of rest, I see the beauty in it and wish for everyone to experience this just once. The disconnect is actually a way of connecting to the real thing. It’s priceless and I’m grateful for it.