When I wake up in the morning, perform my daily ablutions, get dressed, and go out to face the world, I don’t feel like any particular facet of my identity is more exposed, vulnerable, or marginalized than the other. I exist comfortably and equally on each plane as a student, a Jew, a queer woman, an autistic, a native, a feminist, a geek, what have you.
However, when I first encounter and interact with people in the day, I can feel myself fracturing, and my identity becomes less of a mosaic multitude and more along the lines of a cracked mirror. Lately, I’ve felt like my Jewish identity has been coming apart, and it was causing a great deal of anxiety and depression in me. I haven’t plucked up the courage and the time management skills to regularly attend temple, so it’s been a lonely experience on that front.
I haven’t met any other Jews here, and I’ve been having to deal with people making subtle antisemitic comments, and non-Jewish people making jabs at me not being “Jewish enough” because my mother isn’t Jewish, even though not all branches practice matrilineal tracing, my mother agreed to raise my sister and myself as Jewish children, and it would appear that the primary function of matrilineal identity stems from the sad fact that throughout history, Jewish women were targets of sexual assault and rape during pogroms and other terrorizing events by gentile men.
It deflated me greatly, and no amount of listening to Ofra Haza records in my room seemed to remedy it. So this week, which is, incidentally, Holocaust Education Week, I went about feeling less and less like a Jew, because it seemed easier to just not actively identify as Jewish and put myself at risk of being scrutinized and bothered by goyim. Then, I saw a Hillel tent parked on campus on my way to class today. I learned that they were putting on events for the week, culminating in a Shabbat Dinner this Friday to end on a light note, which I was invited to.
I spent about 30 minutes talking with the president of the group, bringing about laughter, and shared somewhat dry anecdotes about antisemitism we’d experienced on smaller and larger scales. I felt like myself again. I felt included, and I could feel the Jewish side of me proudly glowing, as though a candle had been lit inside me. I feel whole again and I now plan on going to Shabbat dinner regularly with them.
Even during your saddest moments, you can have joy, and during your most joyous moments, there’s sadness. Right now, I’m just sad it took me so long to find them!