ok so i live in a jewish area and bc of jewish school (since age 11) and jewish camps, i’ve never really been in a non-jewish majority setting
and now i go off to uni in 2017 (with a gap year), so i’m seeing unis now, and i’m not really sure why but it’s important to me to be visibly Jewish in this like outside space, this non-Jewish space, so i wear a magen david, a star of David, necklace when i go see them
the necklace is one i got for my 12th birthday and it is quite large for a necklace, also it sparkles. so that, and my skirt and sleeves for anyone who knows to recognise them, make me really visibly Jewish.
okay so i’m standing on the train platform with my four other friends (also all Jewish teenage girls) and this guy starts talking to us, this grown man. he tells me he likes my “David star”. he asks us if we’re Israeli. he says he’s really sorry for the Holocaust, he says it’s terrible.
he says he believes the G-d of Israel is real. he asks us where we’re going (he’s going to the same place! what a coincidence! will we sit with him on the train? please don’t reject him! okay, now we have promised him, we mustn’t desert him), he - unbidden - shows me pictures of his kids, three daughters (six, twelve, and sixteen, as i remember). he says he’s Polish. he says there are only three synagogues in Poland left and one of them is in his town. he says his old next-door neighbour went on to do something in Shindler’s List. he says he thinks “Poland” in Hebrew means “G-d resides there” (an Israeli member of our group says she thinks it just means “Poland”, actually. he looks crestfallen). he says he thinks Jew is a charged term and he prefers to use “Israeli” (we try to explain Israeli =/= Jewish, to no avail). he says he thinks the term Palestine is “cheeky” because of its etymology and he doesn’t like or use that term either.
as the train arrives and we sort of sprint as far away from him as possible, with the excuse that it’s crowded and we want to get seats, he’s telling us he’s a theology student at the university, and he thinks “Yoshke haNazri” (he uses the Hebrew first name, as if he weren’t setting off enough alarm bells, and I correct the place-name to Notzri almost without noticing) is Mashiach.
(also: when walking through the campus, a woman wishes me “Shabbat shalom!”. i half-reply, reflexively, before remembering that it’s 2pm on a Thursday.)
when the train pulls back into London, and i see a man in a black velvet kippah, white shirt, dark trousers, and tzitzit, i almost cry with relief.