By Liora Shleptastic (pseudonym) posting on behalf of Crossing Faith…
I often happen to be the first Jew many people meet. The fact that I am Jewish becomes apparent to anyone who asks for my name and realises that it has Hebrew origin. The most common reaction to my background usually involves a reactionary pause where I observe them conjuring up their most polite response, which often includes a big smile and a high pitched “Cool!”. The Jewish people make up 0.2% of the world population. This means that the majority of people on earth, especially in non-western countries, never meet a Jew in their lives. Representing such a loud yet small sector of the world I have learnt to welcome the 50 questions that follow the revelation of my identity.
- So, you haven’t tried bacon? What about chicken parmigiana? You HAVENT tried parmigiana???
- What’s with the little hats?
- Does your dad have those curls and the long jacket?
- Are all your friends doctors and lawyers?
- What do you mean you don’t celebrate Christmas?
And my personal favourite,
- “So why don’t you like Jesus”?
As I grew more confident with the process of explaining 3000 years of history, biblical text, religious commentary and the evolution of Jewish culture in casual conversation, I have started to appreciate the privilege I have in breaking former misconceptions and humanising a tradition that many may have previously dismissed. And I really do see a transformation in the course of the conversation.
The fact that the Jewish religion/ tradition doesn’t try to convert or project itself has shaped the way in which I interact with all people and discuss Judaism. When I answer questions about why I keep Kosher or don’t go out on Friday night, I am not trying to prove that this is necessarily the right way to live. I emphasise that the Jewish tradition binds me to my ancestors and brings beauty, inspiration and purpose to MY life. I don’t at all frown upon anyone who doesn’t follow the tradition. My relationship with Judaism and God inspires me to learn about how other people live and connect. I see no contradiction. I have been to every church, mosque and temple I had the opportunity to visit. I love seeing the faces of the devotees and being touched by their songs and prayers. I see religions and traditions as windows into the various human expressions of hope, devotion and community. And they are all beautiful!
If there is one message I would like to leave you with, it is that you should keep asking questions with an open mind and an open heart. Religion is a fascinating vehicle for the full spectrum of human capacity and we can all be inspired by taking a moment to genuinely inquire.
Liora Shleptastic (pseudonym) is a very close friend who brings light to all those, who she surrounds. We all have so much to learn from this beautiful individual- how to be gentle, how to be kind and how to be tolerant and loving even towards those who may at times not do the same for us. Liora Shleptastic- a beautiful representation of Judaism. A beautiful woman. A beautiful human being.