...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"He converted for the jokes!"

Tonight was the Black Student Union's annual Kwanzaa dinner--delicious, as expected, especially the orange peels stuffed with mashed yam. Before the dinner began, there was a short presentation about the history of Kwanzaa and a lighting of the kinara. Anna, Amy, Peggy and I (along with some other people) all read a brief explanation of one of the seven principals of the holiday and then, one by one, lit the candle representing that principal. I lit the first red candle, the candle of Kujichagulia, or self-determination.

Me, practicing beforehand: "Kujichagulia...kugjichagulia..."
Riana: "What are you doing?"
Me: "I'm going to light the candle for kujichagulia: self-determination."
Riana: "What, are you, like, the token Jewish person?"
Me: "I'm not Jewish--"
Peggy: "She's not Jewish, she just pretends to be."

It was a joke; it was funny; I laughed. But now let me hasten to clarify: I have never pretended to be Jewish. I joke about being a shiksa because I find it funny and ironic, since, except for dating a Jewish guy, I so emphatically do not fit the shiksa stereotype. Sometimes people mistake me for Jewish (it's all the Central/Eastern European blood, I guess) or assume that I come from a Jewish background, but if they bring it up or ask, I always clarify my background for them. I study aspects of the Jewish religion because I find them intellectually thrilling and I participate in Jewish spiritual activities, like going to Shabbat services at P'nai Or, because I find them moving and spiritually significant. And yeah, I added "Jewish Renewal" to "United Church of Christ" to the religion section of my facebook profile because I do attend Jewish Renewal services, and that denomination, for lack of a better word, is open to people of all faiths; going to Shabbat services is part of the spiritual discipline I practice. But I've always been completely upfront, both at P'nai Or and with the other Jewish people in my life, when the question has arisen of my motives, that although I respect and honor their tradition, I'm not of it. It seems important to emphasize now: I do not pretend to be Jewish.