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Thursday, October 6, 2011

It Takes a Village… 10.06.11

Finally, I’ve had a bit of luck with the Jewish Agency. I officially have a file open to apply for aliyah – that’s right friends, with any amount of luck or fortune or prayer I may end up an Israeli citizen yet. :)

For the last two days I’ve been locked in my apartment trying to “prove” my Jewishness. What a silly thing to do. In case you were wondering, in the last two years I have read 17 Jewish books, I’ve spent 4 months in ulpan (in Israel!), I’ve traveled to Israel 3 times, I’ve attended 5 passover seders (and made two of the most delicious matzah lasagnas you ever tasted!), visited many of the world’s top Jewish museums (Museum of Tolerance - LA, Holocaust Memorial Museum - DC, Yad Vashem – Jerusalem, Jewish Heritage Museum - NY, Contemporary Jewish Museum - SF), I’ve been to 5 Jewish film screenings, participated in one 9-month long Jewish fellowship, served as a counselor at Jewish camp for 4th and 5th graders, and have spent more hours in synagogue than I could possibly begin to count. And that’s only the beginning of the list! The Jewish Agency may be sorry they ever asked me for a list of my “Jewish activities.”

For me, the issue is especially sensitive these last couple of weeks. I cannot help but feel rejected. First by Israel, a place I am so magnetized to, and then in those brief fleeting moments – a new man I’m dating breaks it off because “I’m not Jewish enough,” a new acquaintance refuses to believe I’m Jewish until I admit that I converted. These little rejections, piled one on top of the other, hurt.

So I’ll admit it, I’ve been moping. Moping around my new apartment (which I share with a very large family of lizards, if you haven’t heard).

But (there’s always a but with me, isn’t there??), this is still a great week for me. Aside from riding a camel (have you seen the pictures?!), this week I will celebrate the one-year anniversary of my conversion to Judaism. I will never forget that day. First there was the long and confident look in the mirror before the blessings and the mikvah, and soon after there was the day I filled the whole front pew of my synagogue with my family and friends – from Texas, from Los Angeles, from Israel - all there to celebrate my choice to be Jewish. As I held the torah and then stood in front of the congregation to explain to everyone present why I chose Judaism, I couldn’t help the tears from filling my eyes. Never have I been so humbled. Good thing everyone else was crying, too!! :)

A couple days ago, while talking to a surprisingly nice man from the Jewish Agency, he explained in detail the many, many papers and forms I would need in order to be considered for aliyah. He said at one point, “will your family be helping you get these?” My answer was “of course.” “But,” he said slowly, “they’re not Jewish...”

I may have had to prove my Judaism to countless people – to the state of Israel, the Jewish Agency, the men I’ve dated, and to acquaintances; but thankfully, I’ve never had to defend myself to my immediate family. I am enormously grateful that they accept and respect me exactly the way I am.

I’ve spent the past two days emailing my Rabbi, my friends, my family, and my teachers – the ones who invited me over for Channukah, and Passover, and the High Holidays; who studied with me all year during my Jeremiah Fellowship; who encouraged me and told me again and again that I belonged; that spoke broken Hebrew to me; and the ones who laughed and cried at my conversion ceremony last year. I realized, once again, that as with all things in life, it really does take a village. It takes a village of people, full of love and support, to help us realize who we are.

I know, without a doubt, that I am Jewish.

Have you thought lately about who you are?

1 comment:

  1. I just had a conversation with my wife about what it means to be Japanese. Although we often treat it as a simple question, 'Are you (insert race, religion, nationaliry or creed here)' is often complicated. So many people think that we are born one way, and that we will always be that way. To say you are Jewish or Japanese to most people means that you were born ethnically Japanese or Jewish. But you can be culturaly Japanese, or religiously Jewish, or legally American.
    There is so much more to identity than ethnicity or race. Being raised in America, this concept seemed so obvious because there is no such thing as being Ethinically American. We all tend to give both our ethnicity and cultural identities when asked. I'm Italian-American, African-American, Native American, Muslim-American, Asian-American.
    But after living in a VERY homogenous society like Japan, I've realized that there are a great many societies in the world that feel your racial identity, your cultural identity, and your legal identity are the same. There is no reason for most people to say "I'm Japanese-Japanese" (meaning they're both ethnically and cluturaly Japanese) So to them there is only the question of are you Japanese or are you not. Being African-Japanese or Korean-Japanese is not a concept that makes sense to many people.
    Anyway, I've rambled on and written half of a blog entry that I'm sure I'll post on my own site sometime so I'll just end with: Good luck with aliyah, Liz!!