American Jew (PoC Profile)
I am not an immigrant or child of an immigrant; my great-great-grandparents are the ones who brought my family to America, but I thought it would be interesting to see how my cultural experience compares to those who are immigrants or immigrant children.
- Beauty Standards
Of course, there is the typical stereotype that Jewish people have big noses. I’ve heard people comment that someone doesn’t “look Jewish” because their nose isn’t as prominent. Just because someone doesn’t fit the stereotype doesn’t mean their identification is any less true or important.
Food tends to be a big part of Jewish culture. I don’t know if this is true for others, but in my family we have a joke that goes: “They tried to kill us, we won, we ate”. This is pretty much used to sum up every Jewish holiday because the holidays tend to revolve around the Jewish people overcoming an obstacle or celebrating a victory. Some of my personal favorite foods from my culture are latkes, sufganyot (jelly donuts), matzah ball soup, and falafel. On the holidays, my extended family gathers and provides a feast. Some of my childhood memories are of my mom making homemade latkes and my dad and I eating all of them before anyone else could get to them. I also have memories of my great-aunt spooning me bowls of matzah ball soup to hand out to family and of my grandma bringing us lots of kosher for passover foods.
There’s not much to tell since my family is very Americanized. No one in my family is a immigrant or immigrant child, so there are no stories of that kind to tell. My mother will tell the story though of how when she went to college, some of her roommates had never seen any Jews and thought she’d have horns, because that’s how they were raised. My grandma and grandpa were both born in 1938, so they have vague memories of the Holocaust.
In my family, we don’t celebrate any of the minor holidays. We only celebrate holidays such as Passover, Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, etcetera. On the holidays, most of my extended family gathers at my family’s house. Together we provide a feast of foods like brisket, meatballs, potatoes, latkes, and more. We all chat and tell stories and eat a lot of food. Our families don’t go to temple all together, as most of my family lives out of state and doesn’t belong to our synagogue. I remember enjoying services when I was younger because my parents would allow me to bring books to read because we attended the adult service, and not the kid service. I remember dreading services after my parents stopped letting me bring books because in my mind, they were very boring and dragged on forever. Now, I get a little bored, but my rabbi tells interesting stories and makes a few jokes to keep us entertained.
- Home/Family life/Friendships
Being Jewish hasn’t really affected any of my relationships. All of my extended family is at least ½-Jewish, so they all understand at least some of the culture and traditions. My town has a high Jewish population, so I’ve never felt out of place because of my religion. My middle schools were dotted with bar and bat mitzvahs, which got repetitive after awhile, but it was still nice to see my non-Jewish friends participating in prayers and songs.
Growing up, my parents sent my brothers and I to Hebrew School at our temple. My town has two main temples, so our classes were pretty small. I’m sad to say that while I do know the Hebrew Alphabet and can read fairly fluently, I don’t know the meaning of the words. My Hebrew School also didn’t teach us to read without vowels (most Hebrew is written without them), so when my family traveled to Israel we had difficulty reading signs and directions.
It annoys me when people assume I’m Kosher just because I’m Jewish. It also generally annoys me when people mock my traditions or are just plain ignorant about them. Just because they don’t know about my religion doesn’t give them the right to make fun of it. Ignorance is not an excuse.
This was actually more than a micro-aggression to me, but an acquaintance and I were having a friendly insult battle, and they referred to me as a “terrorist” just because my ancestors are from the Middle East. At the time, I laughed it off, because though it’s a terrible thing to say I know my friend didn’t know what she was implying (which of course doesn’t make it right). But months later, I still find myself thinking about that comment. I don’t make fun of my friend for her Albanian and Greek culture, and yet she referred me to in such a negative way without even realizing the magnitude of what she was saying.
- Things I’d like to see less of
I’d like to see less of people caring about others’ religions. This doesn’t mean you should be ignorant about them, but I hate seeing religion cause rifts between people. Just because people believe something else than you doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
- Things I’d like to see more of
I’d like to see more people having awareness/knowledge about other people’s religions. Most people only know about their own religion and don’t know anything about other religions. I’d also like to see more of schools discussing the Holocaust and other major events that revolve around religion. I don’t know if this is true for other schools, but in my school we never talked about the Holocaust. Most of my friends only know that it was something involving the deaths of many Jews and it was caused by Hitler, but that’s all they know. They don’t know about the atrocities committed or the lingering affects; the Diary of Anne Frank and all of the people who were killed just because of their belief.
- Tropes/Stereotypes I’m tired of seeing.
I’m tired of people picturing Jews and only envisioning Orthodox Jews. People think Jew, and they picture a man wearing a tallis and a yamaka/kippah who keeps Kosher and has a prominent nose. Everyone assumes that we all are this religious when whether or not you celebrate the Sabbath and wear religious clothing doesn’t determine your Jewishness. I’m tired of Israel being just thought of as a conflict zone, when if you go there you’ll discover an amazing, rich culture and history. I’m tired of people being ignorant of our struggles and conflicts throughout history