As a white, culturally Jewish, woman, it can be difficult to navigate my cross-sectional identities. I don’t have a “Jewish” last name or any specific features that would give away that I am different. I am used to people assuming that I am Christian or at least, not assuming I’m Jewish. Whenever I tell people about my identity, I feel like I’m revealing some big secret even though it’s not that deep. In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking “I hope they aren’t anti-Semitic.”
Growing up in a town with a lot of other Jews, I was normalized. I knew that UMass would be more diverse in some ways, and less in others. I soon realized that I was probably one of the only Jews in my classes and I found myself apprehensive to tell others about it.
When the Christian holidays roll around every year, people often acknowledge them while checking out at the supermarket or wishing someone well. Though I appreciate when people wish me a happy holiday that I do not observe, I wish they would add a string of words to the end of their sentence; “if you celebrate.” Though it may not seem like a big deal, it makes a world of a difference to me. Being “different” than the norm and mostly experiencing what that means in college has been a challenge in itself and the inclusivity of the three words I previously mentioned is comforting. “If you celebrate” means that I can be who I am and don’t have to pretend to be anything else. It means you are accepted as you are. You are not alone.
So all I ask is that you be more aware of the different people around you and never assume anything.