20 May 2007

"Be A Proud Jew": MiriyaB Gets Mad

She was a vixen when she went to school,
And though she be but little, she is fierce.

I put these lines from A Midsummer Night's Dream on my senior yearbook page. I have the feeling they continue to apply.

When I get mad, I get mad. And I just got mad.

Another Jewish member of one messageboard I'm part of posted this, under the heading ""Be a Proud Jew", So Says Ron Blomberg.......":

For those who never heard of Ron Blomberg, he played for the Yankees from 1969-1976. He was the first DH in MLB history, and happens to be Jewish.

He was doing a signing today in White Plains, NY and I took Sammy [his 6-yr-old son] to go see him. Sam has no idea who he is, but I do, and we got an autograph. We greeted him by saying Shalom, and I had told Sammy that he is Jewish. When we left Ron looked at Sam and said "be a proud Jew". It was great to hear this from a ballplayer of my youth, and even greater to know he has not forgotten his roots.

Among the replies from one of the other members of the board was the following:

"I thought most peeps had moved beyond ethno-cultural identification as a determinant of self.

I guess I was wrong."

I was Not Pleased. And let my Rather Extreme Displeasure be known in more or less the following words:

I thought most peeps might understand if another peep finds it meaningful that a childhood hero encourages them & their progeny in positively embracing an ethno-cultural identification that has, in the past century alone, been the basis for subjecting members of that group to legal discrimination, lynching, and genocide.

I guess I was wrong.

Besides that -- there's also nothing wrong with valuing a cultural, ethnic, and/or religious heritage for particular and specific positive elements within it. To say "Be a proud Jew" [Mexican, Pole, American...or heck, other identifiers of whatever distinguishing sort, particularly if ever stigmatized by others: queer, fat girl, weirdo] is, to me, a perfectly acceptable shorthand for not hating what others have used as a reason to hate, and finding the elements in that identity (which is never, and need never be, your sole identity or an impediment to your individuality--it is, rather, a part of your individuality) that you value and embrace.

I'm sure it means different things to different people -- me, my husband (a convert to Judaism), any kids we may have, etc. -- but to be free to embrace that aspect, along with others? Not to think of it as something negative to hide? Yeah, I do hope for that.

Sorry: I think you Just Don't Get It.

I'm really kinda p.o.'d (maybe you can tell?) -- I don't hold it against you personally -- and I'm far from saying that as a Jew growing up in DC & KY in the '80s & '90s & living in 21st-century America, I have it sooooo tough as compared to Lots Of People (especially members of more "obviously Othered" groups, particularly if based on highly visible identifiers like skin color) -- but I'm guessing that you're not part of a minority/historically discriminated-against ethno-cultural group.

How would you like to wonder if your new school-friend, who's African-American, is going to hate you when she learns you're Jewish, because of fraught public interactions between the Black & Jewish communities that have nothing to do with these 2 like-minded 7th-grade girls -- but could still give her a reason to see you as an enemy? (Thankfully, that wasn't how she saw it.)

How would you like to grow up having nightmares--not often, but now & again--about being dragged first off of the hijacked plane, along with all the others of Your Kind, because you're singled out as being hated?

How would you like spend your childhood knowing that with a move of countries or decades, you could have your opportunities and freedoms curtailed (Soviet refuseniks, anyone? not to mention that even here, many fields [including academia], jobs, neighborhoods, social clubs, etc., remained closed or limited in their acceptance of Jews until at least the 1960s) -- presuming that you weren't just killed outright?

How would you like to be told you're going to hell because Your People believe the wrong thing?

Or how would you like being told -- in 1996, in Oxford, by a female grad student from Northern Ireland for crying out loud! who you would think would know better -- to watch out when you go to Israel because "you know, those people are supposed to be so clever with money." (Hello? Are you totally unaware that I and one of your best buddies in the college are Jewish? Apparently so!)

How about having to wonder whether it's safe, in a particular time & place & context (Berlin, Budapest, Paris, Istanbul; bright daylight, nighttime; lots of people around or just a few), to be an Identifiable Jew -- to be wearing a kippah, or be seen with my kippah-wearing husband, or whether we'd better wear hats over them?

Funny? Or just sad? Hard to say...

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